CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– This team is truly his. Everybody who is on this squad, is someone that Hubert Davis has personally recruited.
In his third year at the helm and after an unexpected postseason run in year one, Davis is trying to turn the program around and approach the 2023-2024 slate with a new stride and some new faces.
After making the type of history that no one wanted them to make last season with a 20-13 finish (11-9 ACC) the No. 19-ranked Tar Heels will begin the regular season with a game against Raford tonight at 7:00pm.
While mainstays Armando Bacot and RJ Davis are back for the Tar Heels, the program saw an array of offseason changes with nine scholarship players leaving. With those departures, Davis brought in five players from the transfer portal: Harrison Ingram (Stanford), James Okonkwo (West Virginia), Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame), Jae’Lyn Withers (Louisville) and Paxson Wojcik (Brown).
Both Bacot and Davis received preseason honors, with Bacot earning All-ACC First Team honors and Davis being named to the Bob Cousy Award Watch List. Ingram has also earned recognition, being named to the 2024 Julius Erving Award Watch List.
The group is supplemented with two freshmen: Zayden High and Elliot Cadeau. Two weeks ago, Cadeau was named the Preseason ACC Rookie of the Year. There hasn’t been a Tar Heel player named Rookie of the Year since 2011 when Harrison Barnes was on the squad. The highly-touted recruit—who reclassified into the class of 2023— will likely start in the backcourt alongside RJ Davis.
“The new guys make everything a lot easier in terms of their personality and what they bring to the table,” Davis said. “They’ve honestly made my job a lot easier. They all bring a different style of play from the transfers all the way down to the freshmen.”
With all the new faces that characterize this new team, certain additions address an array of issues on paper. With Cadeau, his ability as a passer will prove beneficial. Ryan and Paxon also offer expertise through their 3-point shooting. UNC finished last in the ACC in 3-point shooting (31.2 percent). Davis has linked these changes to each player now having a more defined role versus having just two main
guards who can score.
“I think that’s what makes the team so dynamic,” RJ said. “We have a lot of playmakers who are able to handle the basketball and make plays better for themselves or for their teammates. I think that’s what opens up the floor a little bit, because it’s like are you gonna guard the drive or guard the 3. That’s what is making this team so special because we’re always making the extra play.”
Against St. Augustines, the growth at RJ mentioned was put on display as the Tar Heels connected on 45.7 percent of their 3-point shots.
It’s also worthy to note sophomores Seth Trimble and Jalen Washington. Despite seeing his minutes dwindle last season, Trimble has regained his confidence as a shooter and will be focused on improving his outside shot. He’s shown athleticism and on-ball defense, so adding that third facet to his game will elevate him to the guard that he was recruited to be.
Averaging 2.2 points last season, Washington, too, will have a larger role on the squad. He missed a bunch of time last season rehabilitating a knee injury he sustained in high school and with the arrival of Pete Nance last season, his playing time took a big dip. With Nance gone, Washington will have no choice but
to step up to the plate and from what I’ve heard, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
“I think we have a certain level of trust this year that didn’t exist last year,” Bacot said. “We’re an older team so everybody knows their role. Jalen is definitely gonna be stepping in for me a lot this year so he can get that experience and I won’t have to play too much. He’s ready.”
Who: North Carolina (0-0) vs. Radford (0-0)
When: Monday, November 6th, 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Dean Dome, Chapel Hill, NC
Last Meeting: UNC, 95-50
All-Time: UNC leads the series 2-0