I had my first chance to make it back to Chapel Hill this weekend to see our Heels host the Hokies. I always forget how much fun it is to walk into the Dean Dome and feel the excitement brewing from the fans on game day.

I was looking forward to getting a close up view of the team in action while at the same time, getting a feel for the fans at the game. We have seen some exciting games this year, as well as some incredibly frustrating letdowns. I feel like you always get a better pulse on a fan base when you can judge their subtle reactions to real-time events of a game. I enjoy hearing people mutter their frustrations to each other after turnovers or bad plays. But the other reason I was excited to be at the game was because of a conversation I had the night before…

On Friday night my wife and I went out to dinner in Durham with some friends, and a conversation I had at dinner really stuck with me. My buddy asked something along the lines of “So… do you think its Roy’s fault we aren’t playing well, or do you think it’s the players’ fault, because I haven’t decided what I think yet?”

Having been a team player all my life I have a hard time placing blame in this type of situation. Lots of folks want to point a finger at Coach Williams, while others blame it on the players. Other things being called into question are effort, intensity, decision making, offensive prowess (or lack thereof), cohesiveness, etc… to be quite honest, I think the biggest challenge for our team is a lack of “experience.”

Nowadays, players are coming out of high school with raw talent. I feel like a lot of top recruits (no one specifically on our team) can simply “play,” while most aren’t polished on the basic fundamentals of basketball. When kids are playing pickup at the gym no one is screaming and yelling about setting a solid screen, or someone running “shoulder to hip” off the screen. You won’t hear someone yell “WHOAAA- did you see his shooting form?” “What a great post move!” “He is playing great defense.” “Did you see him fight over the ball screen?” For those of you who have played pickup, these comments are laughable. If you have ever been privileged enough to have a great basketball coach, you understand the importance of these fundamentals.

Though it’s fun to watch someone drive down the lane and dunk all over the opposition (i.e. Danny Green on Greg Paulus), it’s not necessarily what you need to win games. Basic fundamentals at all levels will set you on the right course to win games. Our secondary break, when run correctly, should be unstoppable. When we run our set plays, we should still be getting open looks. If guys are going 100%, setting solid screens, moving effectively and playing together, it shouldn’t matter how well someone scouts us, we should still be executing. I know we are practicing at full speed in practice and focusing on the fundamentals and our progress is really starting to show!

As this season has gone on, our team has continued to grow and progress and we are making fewer “freshman mistakes.” We are executing better on offense and we are playing with much more intensity on the defensive end. If we can mimic our performance in overtime against VT and our overall performance (minus a few mental blunders) against Wake, we will finish this year incredibly strong!

image by Todd Melet