North Carolina hosted East Carolina University, UNC-Greensboro and UNC-Wilmington in the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund Jamboree in the Dean Dome today. The proceeds from the event will be put toward long-term recovery efforts for Hurricane Matthew.
Each team played each other once, with the first two periods lasting 13 minutes and the final two spanning 14 minutes. The first ten minutes of each period was played with a running clock.
North Carolina went 2-1 in the event, with wins over ECU and UNCW and a loss to UNCG, although the scores weren’t important compared to the goal. “This is an amazing feeling, senior forward Theo Pinson said. “It was an honor to be a part of it. It was fun.”
Coach Roy Williams came up with the idea and approached ECU, UNCG and UNCW with the idea, as all three programs are run by former Tar Heels. Jeff Lebo, ECU’s head coach, played for North Carolina and then-assistant coach Williams from 1985-89. “What a great idea for people who really are in dire need of help,” Lebo said. “It’s something bigger than basketball.”
Wes Miller, who is the head coach at UNCG, played for Williams at UNC, where he won a national championship in 2005. Miller’s half-brother Walker is a freshman forward at UNC this season. C.B. McGrath is coaching his first season as UNCW’s head coach after being Williams’ assistant at UNC from 2003-17. All three heaped praise on Williams after the game. The four coaches answered questions from the media together while joking with each other.
The game was also impactful for the players. “It’s more than just a game,” graduate transfer Cameron Johnson said. “Anytime you can raise money for a cause like this is really awesome. I’m really thankful for everybody that came out and showed support.”
While the basketball wasn’t the main focus of the night, some insight can be taken from UNC’s play. In all three of their scrimmages, the Tar Heels were mediocre on defense. Open three-point shots were a common theme for the three periods, and UNCG capitalized by knocking down 10 3’s in 14 minutes. These results don’t matter now, but against better opponents in real competition, that poor three-point defense could come back to bite the Tar Heels.
North Carolina’s defensive rebounding was also lacking in all three scrimmages. Smaller opponents consistently outjumped and outhustled the Tar Heel forwards to extend possessions. Some excuse should be given, as North Carolina made wholesale substitutions throughout the game. However, Williams prides his teams on rebounding, and North Carolina didn’t look like a juggernaut on the glass on Sunday.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. Plenty of positives can also be taken from the scrimmages, highlighted by a dominant offense.
First, North Carolina looked like a prototypical Roy Williams offense in transition. The Tar Heel bigs were quick in their outlets, and the guards made smart decisions to finish plays. A fluid transition game is important, as it could take pressure off an inexperienced frontcourt by providing easy buckets.
The Tar Heels also made nearly every shot they took in the final period against UNCW, and Johnson, Platek and Maye consistently hit from deep throughout the day. Platek’s hot shooting is especially a good sign, as the team will need deep shooting to come from elsewhere with Joel Berry out to begin the season.
McGrath noticed the Tar Heels’ torrent offensive performance against his team. After Williams said he tried to play every player possible, but that he had failed to put in sophomore Shea Rush against UNCW, McGrath quipped that the reserve would’ve made a shot if he had played.
In the end, Sunday, bad defense and good offense didn’t matter. Sunday was about using a platform to help those in need. For that, Tar Heel fans should be proud.
photo by Smith Hardy