CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– Live Action at the Dean E. Smith Center Friday night marked the long-awaited return of Carolina basketball with a series of introductions and scrimmages between both the men’s and women’s programs. The festivities also included a light show in honor of the arena’s newest features.
The night started off with the women’s program who played four, six-minute quarters in their debut. In the offseason, Courtney Banghart added a wealth of players to her now-15 strong roster. The program added eight newcomers including five freshmen.
A few of the newcomers made their presence at the scrimmage almost immediately and while it’s still early, I think they’ll flash when the regular season starts.
Indya Nivar, who transferred from Stanford during the offseason, showcased her smooth ball-handling skills and managed to knock down a few shots in the paint and several three-pointers. Her ability to make these types of shots fills the void left by Eva Hodgson—the team’s best three-point shooter—who graduated last year.
Maria Gakdeng also made an impact on Friday, serving as a strong post presence with her offensive and defensive rebounding. The junior, who transferred in from Boston College, has length with a 6-3 frame that will be of use to the Tar Heels in protecting the paint and will also help her score more easily over defenders.
Fans will definitely enjoy watching these two this season along with the other newcomers, all of whom have a unique skill set and style of play that has bolstered Banghart’s squad for this year. They undoubtedly have the chance to be something special this season.
Two of those newcomers, Laila Hull and Cierra Toomey will redshirt the 2023-24 season while they continue to rehabilitate injuries they sustained in high school. Hull was the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2023 and Toomey was ranked No.3 in the class of 2023. Both will retain four full years of playing time.
Now let’s get into the men’s side of things.
They played two 12-minute halves and put on a flashy performance as fans were most excited to seen freshman guard Elliot Cadeau. Cadeau showed off his adept ball-handling skills and speed – dishing out dimes to his teammates and made several of his own. He’s expected to start in the backcourt alongside RJ Davis this year and at Live Action, was matched up with him for the majority of the scrimmage.
Freshman Zayden High also showed out from boxing out, to grabbing his own rebounds. While it’s too early to make an assessment, it’s clear that the presence of these guys provides depth to a formerly depleted UNC squad that saw eight of its core members exit last season.
With that being said the 2023-24 season is set to begin on October 27th for the men who will play an exhibition game against St. Augustine’s. Their regular season is set to begin on November 6th against Radford in Dean Dome. The women will begin November 8th against Gardner-Webb.