Although mired in the hovering dark cloud of academic scandal and being largely overshadowed these days by the likes of uber-talented Duke and Kentucky nationwide, Head Coach Roy Williams’ Carolina squad is quietly going about its business this summer.
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Taking advantage of a new NCAA policy enacted a couple seasons ago that allows teams to meet two hours per week for official summer practice, the Tar Heels are getting their first real look at some fresh new faces.
It’s a crash course for the young guys, veteran Jackson Simmons says.
Joel James says the summer provides a relatively low-pressure training ground for the new guys before getting thrown into the crucible of the ACC basketball season.
Simmons also says it’s a vital opportunity for the older players to get to know the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of their new teammates.
But summer practice is not only a wading pool for the incoming freshmen to ease in and get their feet wet. It’s brutal competition, too.
With the wide array of Tar Heels in the NBA, the summer affords current Carolina players the chance to test their skills against seasoned professionals in pick-up games. That’s not bad preparation.
So how are the Tar Heels looking? Well, one name that’s been popping up so far this summer is Kennedy Meeks. The sophomore reportedly continues to get in better and better shape, shedding a few extra pounds.
That’s music to the ears of Coach Williams.
Notably, Nate Britt has made the switch from shooting left-handed to right-handed in the offseason. That news was met with perplexity by many observers. But early reports say Britt has been shooting lights out in recent pick-up games.
Another prominent returning UNC player’s name that’s been circulating around is Joel James. James says his injury last December derailed his momentum on the floor.
But signs are pointing towards a James that could be much more of a dominant force inside – a welcome development for the Tar Heels.
Most preseason projections place Carolina in somewhere between No. 5 and No. 10 in the rankings, but for now, the UNC players, young and old, seem focused on seizing the summer, taking care of their own business and improving each day.