With the beginning of the season right around the corner, the UNC men’s basketball team received awful news Friday morning when it was announced that junior Theo Pinson is out indefinitely after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.
Pinson, who was expected to be among the Tar Heels’ starting five, suffered the injury during practice earlier this week.
A treatment plan is currently being reviewed, but until then the timetable for Pinson’s return is unknown.
A 6-foot-6 wing who has spent time at multiple positions for UNC, Pinson played in all 40 games for the Tar Heels last season as a sophomore, starting in seven of them. He averaged just under five points per game and finished third on the team in assists last season–seeing his teammates point to him on 115 occasions. He was the first non-starter to lead UNC in the category since 2008.
This run of good health came a year after Pinson missed significant time down the team’s stretch run with a broken left foot.
Now the Tar Heels’ number one source of charisma finds himself in a similar situation, only now it’s the other foot that’s broken.
“I’m so disappointed for Theo,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said, in a statement. “Number one, he’s been playing well and he does so many positive things for our team. Theo’s our energy guy, he defends, he’s our best passer, a threat on the offensive boards, he can play four different positions, and he gives our team personality, and I mean that in a good way.
“Hopefully we can get him back before the end of the season.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/theo-pinson-out-indefinitely-with-broken-foot
Keeping with tradition, UNC celebrated the beginning of basketball season with its annual “Late Night with Roy” event–featuring the Tar Heels as both athletes and dancers.
Hosted by former UNC and Dallas Cowboy wide receiver Jesse Holley, the night also featured a unique twist with the addition of various skills competitions.
At the end of it all, though, the team scrimmage–the famous Blue vs. White game–decided the night’s winner.
Justin Jackson’s three-pointer in a one-minute overtime period helped lift the White squad to a 40-37 victory that featured a great deal of up-tempo action.
While almost the entire roster was able to get some time in the spotlight during the scrimmage, Jackson led his team with 13 points on the way to a victory in both the game and the overall competition.
Other members of the White team included Kennedy Meeks, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, Luke Maye, Stilman White, Kanler Coker and Aaron Rohlman.
Britt added nine points to the cause, while Meeks and Pinson each tallied six apiece.
The Blue team consisted of Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley, Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams and Shea Rush.
Hicks led the blue squad in the scrimmage with 13 points, while Berry chipped in nine.
Earlier in the night, Berry teamed up with Bradley to give the Blue side a 2-0 lead by winning both the shooting stars competition and the skills contest.
The first event consisted of two teams attempting to be the first to make shots from various locations on the floor, while the second included an obstacle course that tested players’ dribbling, passing and shooting.
Bradley, a 6-foot-10 freshman, flashed a nice outside shot during those events–even though that may not mean much when it comes to in-game action.
During the next three competitions–a relay race, the dance-off and the three-point shootout–the White team recovered to take the lead heading into the main event.
The relay race was a confusing jumble that forced players into twerking and wearing football helmets at different times, but it provided a good laugh when Pinson took over on the microphone and did his best Larry Fedora impersonation.
Pinson also got the crowd going with his dance moves–giving his team a point after defeating Berry in a one-on-one showdown that broke a tie following the team routines.
Britt then went out and took home the three-point competition with a win over Jackson in the semifinals and Robinson–a lanky, 6-foot-6 freshman–in the finals.
The UNC women’s basketball team started the night off with a dance routine and a scrimmage of its own, after head coach Sylvia Hatchell was given a standing ovation upon her introduction.
It was a night of fun and basketball that gave fans a an early preview of Chapel Hill’s favorite season.
UNC will play its first exhibition game Friday Nov. 4 at home against UNC-Pembroke.http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-kicks-off-basketball-season-at-late-night-with-roy
UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams took some time during Media Day on Tuesday to address the ongoing controversy in the sports world surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
By refusing to stand for the national anthem before games, Kaepernick has sent shockwaves through most of America–using his actions to help create dialogue about the racial inequalities that exist in the country.
Many other players across several different sports have since followed suit, in an effort to keep the conversation in the news cycle.
“I don’t mind telling you–I try to be straight forward when I can–when [Kaepernick] first did it, it made me very angry,” Williams told reporters.
Soon after, the coach brought his team together for a meeting to discuss the issue–but with a different mindset.
“Then he explained himself more, and I listened better” the coach added. “He wasn’t saying this is a bad country. He was saying we’ve got one particular problem he was taking a stance on–and I think he’s correct.”
After making his views clear to the players, Williams asked them each to come to him if they had any issues or questions with what’s going in the world–so they’d be able to mutually help each other reach a common understanding.
Soon after that meeting, Williams said two players came to him for an opinion as the violent protests in Charlotte surrounding the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott were reaching their peak.
“I think we have a very significant problem throughout our entire country,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of different things I’m watching people debate on TV. That’s for sure.”
As far as what would happen if any member of the Tar Heels decided to make a stand on any social issue–whether it be following Kaepernick or another form of protest–it would be allowed, as long as they discuss it with the coach beforehand.
“I may disagree with you, but I’ll be with you,” Williams said, imagining a situation where he was having that discussion with a player. “Just don’t surprise me.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/roy-williams-comments-on-kaepernick-protests
Limping and bow-legged, Ol’ Roy is better.
Roy Williams made his first public appearance of the new basketball season this week at the annual UNC media day. Dressed in a sharp suit and engaging as ever, Williams later revealed his true self to a couple of sportswriters in the hallway outside the Smith Center training room.
Now in his coaching togs, Williams limped down the hallway smiling and said, “It’s so much better than last year . . . this four-month-old knee on this 66-year-old body.”
He was referring to his titanium knee that replaced the broken hinge that forced to him sit down during practice for the first time in his 40-plus year coaching career. He pulled down his brace and showed us the neat scar.
Williams had the knee replaced over the summer after he limped through the recruiting period and took his buddies on their annual golf trip that he struggled through with a handicap cart. Then he went under the knife and, while still limping, he is smiling more now than he has been for the last two years of pain. In another month, Williams will be walking smoothly and ready to coach his 14th Tar Heel team, one that will open the season in the top 10. Carolina lost two of its top eight players, but the best two – Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. He has asked his returning guys to use the last-second loss to Villanova in the national championship game as fuel to improve and return to the Final Four in Phoenix next April Fool’s Day.
He will probably start three seniors and two juniors, rare for a ranked team in college hoops these days. By committee, they will have to replace Paige’s defense, leadership and clutch shooting, Johnson’s scoring and rebounding around the basket. Carolina will be weaker in the post unless Kennedy Meeks explodes and Isaiah Hicks stays out of foul trouble during their senior years. But Joel Berry and Justin Jackson should give the Heels two of the better perimeter players in the country.
For sure, they will have great motivation and coaching because Roy Williams is now 66 years old and four months, again a stand-up guy.
Recent preseason tournament, “Tyskie Cup”Championship photo. I was named MVP
Signing my National Letter of Intent (NLI) to attend the University of North Carolina was one of the proudest moments of my life. From as early as I can remember, I spent the majority of my time running up and down the basketball court. Between the Boys and Girls Club, AAU and my school teams, I don’t think it was physically possible to play more basketball than I did. Luckily for me, I was able to find a passion for something that would allow me to experience a world not seen by many.
Signing an NLI is the biggest honor to date in collegiate athlete’s life. It’s a culmination of years of dreams, countless hours perfecting your craft, and most likely conquering a few obstacles along the way. Usually family members or loved ones are by your side, helping to guide you through the selection process, which can prove to be quite stressful. The decision is never as simple as it may seem for those who have never been directly involved.
What part of the country will I spend the next four years of my life? Which coaching staff will be responsible for shaping me on and off the court? How will I fit into the team? How does this school fit into my life goals from an academic standpoint? Will this school compete against other top schools in their respective conference? These are just a few questions that were important to me when I was making my decision.
It was an easy choice to play for Hall of Fame Coach (Roy) Williams. I had no doubt that the UNC Basketball staff would make me better on and off the court. Of course, the history and tradition of Carolina Basketball sells itself. The beauty of the campus and town of Chapel Hill captivated me. First class education, as well as top-level athletics across the board also drew me in. On every one of my 20+ visits (19 unofficial) to UNC (which may have set an NCAA record), I felt that I had found a slice of heaven. I was eager to join the Carolina family, which feels even stronger today than when I represented my university on the court.
Two months ago, 10 years after I signed my first letter of intent, I signed my 7th “letter” to continue my professional career with Energa Czarni Sluspk in the Polish Tauron Basketball Liga. Every summer I have a ‘signing day’ deciding where in the world I will pursue the opportunity to play basketball for a living.
The process hasn’t changed much, except now I pick between countries and at times even continents where to play. Without official and unofficial visits, deciding on location and coaching staffs can be a bit more difficult. You have to rely on your agent, as well as network of players and coaches in Europe to help guide you. Of course with professional contracts, your compensation (salary, housing, transportation, etc.) are also major factors in your decision-making process. Most countries have at least a first and second division that change every year, so keeping up with the most competitive countries is also part of your homework as a player. There are also multiple international competitions in which top European clubs participate.
At the end of the day, I think all athletes are in quite similar positions. Whether you’re talking about a high school senior who signed to play his college career at Carolina, or my signing to play in Poland, getting better every day, competing at a high level and playing for championships are part of the athlete’s mentality and will not change for me, even after my days on the hardwood are over.
Connect with Marcus:
Two names cast a large shadow over the UNC men’s basketball media day session on Tuesday.
The reason that matters is because Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige played their final game in Tar Heel uniforms over six months ago.
Despite returning six key contributors from a year ago, the remaining Tar Heel players face an uphill challenge this season as they look to establish their own legacy.
Head coach Roy Williams wasted no time reminding reporters how much love he had for both Johnson and Paige as players and as people. He brought up the incredible stats Johnson posted during his final year, while also praising Paige for being one of the team’s best players for each of his four seasons on campus.
And while he recognizes that the Tar Heels have enough talent to compete on the national scale again, he’s interested to see how new leaders—such as point guard Joel Berry, small forward Justin Jackson and big man Kennedy Meeks—respond to the challenge.
“Those other guys—as I’ve said many times—they’ve really gotta step up,” Williams said. “Because it’s not just two guys out of eight, it’s [our] two best—and markedly you could say maybe the two best at every part of the game.
“When Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] were the best–if all of a sudden they weren’t available for the Ryder Cup–that would have been a big loss.”
The most obvious area where UNC will need fresh faces to take over—outside of replacing the on-court statistics—is with vocal leadership.
Players such as Meeks and junior wing Theo Pinson bring lively personalities to the table, while the quieter players like Berry, Jackson and Isaiah Hicks prefer to lead by example.
In his role as the point guard, though, Berry naturally takes more of that pressure on his shoulders. Instead of trying to escape Paige’s shadow, he has embraced the thought of speaking up more—often leaning on lessons he learned from Paige to make the transition easier.
“He was just always vocal, always positive,” Berry said of Paige. “If someone made a mistake, he would always take the blame. And then when we went and watched film you could see it wasn’t his fault—but as a leader you don’t want to get in a confrontation with a teammate during a game. He did a great job of that.
“I’m a quiet person,” he added. “But in my position I’m gonna have to be louder than I was last year.”
The player with perhaps the biggest shoes to fill is Hicks, the senior who is expected to take over for Johnson at the power forward spot.
Although he’s had flashes of brilliance off the bench over the last couple seasons, Hicks has never been a full-time starter to this point in his college career. His explosiveness and rebounding will be sorely needed for a Tar Heel team that doesn’t have quite as much depth in the post as it has in the past.
While Johnson was always UNC’s most emotional player on the floor, Hicks is about as laid back as they come. As a leader in that fashion, Hicks said he feels like he’ll be able to do his part when called upon—but he expects the other returning players to take on some of that responsibility as well.
“Everyone knows we don’t have Marcus and Brice, so everyone else is picking it up,” Hicks said. “You’ll see Joel Berry talking more and he’s pretty emotional too–so he’s got a little bit of both [Paige and Johnson].
“Not only that, you got Nate, Kennedy, Justin, and Theo,” he continued. “Everybody’s been stepping up and doing what they can to fill that void.”
To truly make their own mark, this bunch of Tar Heels will need to leave a lasting impression come tournament time yet again. UNC will likely be ranked among the top 10 in all of the major polls once the regular season finally gets underway. A second straight Final Four trip isn’t out of the equation either, once the leadership issue is taken care of.
Because this team has the luxury of experiencing excruciating pain together against Villanova, the players only need to think back to what their coach told them after Kris Jenkins’ heartbreaking buzzer beater cost them a national title.
Provided they do that, the rest should take care of itself—regardless whether Paige or Johnson step foot in the Smith Center at all this year.
“I told them in the locker room [after the loss to Villanova], ‘Let’s use this as fuel to work harder in the offseason, let’s use this as fuel to motivate, and use this as fuel to put in the extra time.’” Williams said. “Know that we were this close to what we wanted”http://chapelboro.com/featured/unc-mens-basketball-seeking-new-identity-without-paige-and-johnson
Standing in front of his team during its first practice of the new season, UNC head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams told them, “We were this close last year.”
Wearing a microphone for a behind-the-scenes look at the Tar Heels’ first practice, Williams wanted to hammer the message home–even though surely nobody could have forgotten.
They were just one devastating Kris Jenkins three-point buzzer-beater from getting a shot in overtime against Villanova in the NCAA Championship.
However, Williams made another thing clear to this year’s crop of Tar Heels in the video released by the school’s athletic department.
“We’re good enough to win the national championship,” he told them. “But we have to put forth the effort.
'We're good enough to win the national championship…but we have to put forth the effort'
Coach Williams Mic'd at 1st Practice – Part 1 pic.twitter.com/Vyn1qqbuS4
— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) October 5, 2016
Projected to be a top-10 team entering the 2016-17 season, it’s no stretch of the imagination to envision a return to the Final Four for the Tar Heels.
In college basketball, however, there are never any guarantees–especially in a league as tough as the ACC.
One thing remains true, though.
If UNC can display chemistry similar to what they showed a year ago, while getting production to replace Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, there’s certainly not many teams with more talent.
ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan ranked the Tar Heels No. 6 in his preseason top 25 poll on Thursday.http://chapelboro.com/featured/roy-williams-wears-mic-gives-inside-look-at-uncs-first-practice
As team media days begin across the country, the beginning of college basketball season continues to draw closer.
ESPN college basketball writer Eamonn Brennan got in on the excitement by releasing his own version of the preseason top 25.
UNC came in at No. 6 on the list, showing that the Tar Heels are still a trendy pick to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
A veteran returning cast including senior big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks–paired with a deep junior class that boasts wings Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson as well as point guard Joel Berry–should give head coach Roy Williams plenty of weapons at his disposal this season.
The Tar Heels will surely need it to compete in the powerful ACC.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has his Blue Devils ranked No. 1 in Brennan’s poll even with mega-recruit Harry Giles sidelined for six weeks after another knee surgery.
Virginia rounds out the top 5, just behind Kentucky (No. 2), Kansas (No. 3) and defending national champion Villanova (No. 4).
Other ACC teams included in the rankings were Louisville (No. 14), Syracuse (No. 17) and Florida State (No. 25).
UNC is scheduled to have its official media day next Tuesday, with the Tar Heels scheduled to take the floor in front of fans for the first time next Friday at their annual “Late Night with Roy” event.http://chapelboro.com/featured/espn-lists-unc-mens-basketball-as-no-6-in-nation-entering-2016-17
Stuart Scott. Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Jesse Holley.
When the UNC men’s basketball team officially kicks off its season Oct. 14 with its annual “Late Night with Roy” event, they’ll each have yet another thing in common.
Each man was a Tar Heel in their college days, but once Holley finishes his duties as host of “Late Night” he’ll join the other two among a small group of people to do so.
Holley played basketball for two years under head coach Roy Williams–including during the 2004-05 National Championship season. He also was a star wide receiver on the UNC football team from 2003-06, who later went on to play three years with the Dallas Cowboys.
He earned his spot on the Cowboys only after winning a reality show on Spike TV called “Fourth and Long” hosted by legendary Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin.
These days, Holley works as a sports personality on 105.3 The Fan radio in the Dallas area–making him more than ready to host “Late Night with Roy.”
This year’s UNC team will showcase 10 returning players that night–including three starters–from last year’s National Finalists.
New freshmen Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson and Tony Bradley will also be making their debuts.
A new format will be debuted this year at the “Late Night” event–with an evening-long competition between the Blue and White teams highlighting the night.
A champion will be crowned following the traditional scrimmage game, but it will include points tallied during various shooting drills and a three-point competition.
Of course, it wouldn’t be “Late Night with Roy” without some dancing.
The Blue and White teams will each be scored on the dances they perform with the Carolina Dance Team as well.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. the night of the event. Admission, as always, is free.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/jesse-holley-named-host-of-late-night-with-roy
Over the last few decades, not many people have had more influence over college athletics than Nike chairman Phil Knight.
That relationship will be recognized in November of 2017, with the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Oregon–a prestigious preseason college basketball tournament known as “PK80.”
UNC was among the 16 teams selected to play in PK80, which will be among the largest–and toughest–regular season tournament fields in history.
“What a thrill for North Carolina Basketball to be playing in such a special event to honor a truly special man,” head coach Roy Williams said, in a statement released by the university.“PK80 not only brings together some of the top basketball programs in the game, it honors a giant in business and sports.
“Mr. Knight has a wonderful ability to touch people’s lives and do great things, both in and out of the sports world,” Williams continued. “I’ll always cherish my friendship with him.”
The entire field consists of schools that wear Nike gear–with 13 of the 16 having made at least one Final Four appearance.
Nine of the last 13 national champions are also in the mix.
Participating schools include: Arkansas, Butler, Connecticut, Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, Portland State, Stanford and Texas.
“On behalf of the 16 schools participating in PK80, we are honored to be highlighting Mr. Knight’s contributions to college basketball,” said Clint Overby, vice president of ESPN Events. “The strength of the field coupled with the two venues in Portland set the stage for what should be an exciting weekend.”
Chris Oxley, senior vice president of venue operations of Rose Quarter said, “PK80 will be an incredible showcase of basketball for fans in our arenas and watching on ESPN.
“Two eight-team events – consisting of three games per team – will run simultaneously in the two buildings with the crowning of two bracket champions,” he added. “All games from Portland will be televised on ESPN networks.”
No bracket information has been announced yet for the event, but games will take place on Thursday, Nov. 23, Friday, Nov. 24 and Saturday, Nov. 26.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-invited-to-play-in-prestigious-pk80-college-basketball-tournament