Tuesday, November 9, I watched the beginning of the 2021-22 Tarheel Basketball Season. It was also the beginning of the Hubert Davis era. To say I am excited for basketball season is an understatement. When the Final Four is over in April, I can’t wait until next basketball season and it seems the older I get the more it captivates me.
One reason I’m particularly excited about this year’s season is because Hubert Davis is at the helm. Coach Davis has already demonstrated he knows a lot about basketball…after all he played at UNC (the University of National Champions), the NBA, served as a basketball analyst for ESPN and for the last several years he has been one of the Assistant Coaches to Hall of Famer, Roy Williams.
It’s also obvious, from the 2022 recruiting class he knows how to recruit! He has the #9 recruiting class in the nation coming in, and at the time of this writing he is only 1-0 in his career. In the big scheme of things he’s proven nothing. Yet several of the most highly sought after high school athletes have already committed to play for him.
While I’m excited about his experience and his ability to recruit, I’m even more excited to know that Hubert Davis has unapologetically and publicly professed his faith in Christ. From a public standpoint it seems that he seeks to honor Christ in all that he does. In his press conference, after accepting the head coaching position, he clearly stated that he “became a Christian [at UNC].” He also said that he understood that his platform as a head coach was not only about basketball, but it was also about “missionary work.” While I know that phrase may mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, other believers have to be encouraged to know that Coach Davis realizes there are things more important than basketball.
My Thoughts on the First Game
It’s hard to know what kind of expectations to have for this season. The last two years have been uncharacteristic of UNC basketball. We also lost a few players to either the NBA or the transfer portal, however, we’ve also gained some transfers and highly touted freshmen. After watching the exhibition game and our first “real” game of the season I have some observations:
We seem to be taking care of the ball better. Although we will surely see tougher defenses throughout the season, our team seems to be taking care of the ball much better than the last couple of years. Hopefully, this will continue and we can drastically reduce the turnovers that have plagued us the last couple of years.
We still know how to use our big men inside. Coach Davis has repeatedly stated that he wants “bigs” that can play multiple positions and that can spread the floor with their shooting ability. We have seen this already with the contributions of Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek and even the game of Armondo Bacot. However, I noticed Brady didn’t mind posting up when needed and we also saw a little “high-low” action on Tuesday night. This just means that we are a multiple threat team. Our bigs can go outside and they can go inside and our guards aren’t afraid to take it to the hole or shoot the three. As a multi-dimensional team we should be a handful for the defenses in the ACC and elsewhere.
Our rotations are smaller. Early in the season it seemed that Coach Williams often used a lot of combinations and would go deep into his bench. However, in the exhibition game and the first game of the season we’ve seen a relatively small rotation compared to Coach Williams’ led teams. In reading social media posts throughout the years, I’ve noticed many people aren’t afraid to share their opinions about who should or should not start and who should or should not come off of the bench. However, I’m going to leave this up to the coaches. The coaches see them in practice every day, we only see them a few hours per week. Although I’m not going to express my full opinion on whose style I like better, I am interested to see how the rotation will develop throughout the year, and I sincerely hope we win some games by enough points to allow our bench to see a lot of playing time throughout the season.
Transfer Portal: Is it a good thing or bad thing? I think the transfer portal has the potential to both hurt us and help us. Because we have such great recruits year in and year out, there are some years where some major talent sits on the bench and sees very little playing time. Some of those recruits may be thinking about all of the playing time and exposure they could get if they went to a smaller school. Since they no longer have to sit out a year if they transfer, the transfer portal can look very appealing.
However, as we have seen with the early contributions of Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek, the transfer portal has the potential to help us. Another thing to consider is a college player who has great potential, but because they are surrounded by lesser talent, or because they aren’t in a tough league, their talent may not get noticed on a national stage or by the NBA. Someone like that, who is experienced and has a hard work ethic can be recruited by UNC and make the transfer and immediately help us in areas that we may be lacking.
The big scheme of things. In the big scheme of things basketball isn’t as important as I probably make it out to be. However, it’s exciting to watch other image bearers come together and produce a beautiful work of art. It’s entertainment, it’s teamwork, there are life lessons that can be taught, and it gives believers like Hubert Davis a platform to not only influence young men for time, but also for eternity.