If Friday night’s exhibition against Mount Olive was a tryout to determine the heirs apparent to Theo Pinson and Joel Berry II, UNC might want to play a five-forward lineup.
Luckily for the Tar Heels, who won 107-64 over the visiting Division II Trojans, those auditioning for the role have an entire season to grow into the positions.
Berry II and Pinson, both of whom are in the NBA, contributed 51.4 percent of UNC’s assists last season. The senior duo is among Carolina leaders in all-time wins and NCAA Tournament success, so no one expected their replacement to be easy.
But 22 turnovers against a university best known for local pickle production? That will put a sour taste in your mouth.
The battle for starting point guard is being contested between five-star freshman Coby White, who got the nod tonight, and breakthrough-in-waiting Seventh Woods, a junior who’s been hampered by a litany of injuries in his career.
Both provided WOW moments.
Woods (8 points, 2 assists) had a one-handed jam that showed why so many had declared him the next Tar Heel point guard extraordinaire.
White (10 and 6) was more consistent as he dazzled with a blurry of crossovers and no-look passes.
But each had four turnovers to “lead” the team.
And against a brutal non-conference schedule and uber-competitive ACC slate that NCAA.com ranked as the toughest in the country, those numbers won’t do the trick.
“We’re a long way from a finished product,” senior Cameron Johnson said. “But in last year’s exhibition we had our fair share of struggles.”
That game was only an 11-point win over Barton College where the team again had trouble taking care of the ball with 14 turnovers.
Of course, ball security was never going to be an issue with two seasoned veterans handling point guard duties last season.
This year, though?
Woods and White are going to have to grow up quickly.
“I think they’ll keep getting better as time goes on,” Johnson said of the point guard duo. “Joel and Theo’s responsibilities will be filtered out through different people.”
One of those responsibilities that must be replaced is scoring, but that looks like it won’t be as much of an issue for the Tar Heels.
Led by Garrison Brooks’ 16 points, Carolina made 41 field goals on a night where the team went 3-13 from beyond the three-point line.
Four other Tar Heels finished in double digits as Carolina pushed the tempo with points in transition against a Mount Olive press.
Noticeably quiet on the court and in the stat sheet, though, was Preseason ACC Player of the Year and All-American senior Luke Maye.
The forward finished with 8 points on a 3-6 night from the field, missing his only shot from deep.
Maye and the rest of the Tar Heels will hope to re-discover their shot in time for a revenge-game rematch at Wofford Tuesday night.
The Terriers, led by sharpshooter Fletcher Magee, upset UNC 79-75 in the Smith Center in December of last year.
While Maye admitted Carolina overlooked Wofford the first time, UNC will be more careful with the Terriers this time around.
But will they be more careful with the ball?
That’ll be up to White and Woods.