It will either be Melvin Scott, who has the most collegiate experience but is not a true point guard or it could be former Oakland Technical product Quentin Thomas, who has been impressive in the Tar Heels’ first two exhibitions. Williams even said transfer Wes Miller could get the nod when fourth-ranked North Carolina takes on Santa Clara in the Pete Newell Challenge tonight at 9 p.m.
“I sort of want to start Quentin Thomas, because he is a local youngster,” Williams said. “Melvin Scott has had more experience, so I sort of want to start him because of that. And Wes Miller is a tough little nut and I like that. He took twelve stitches in his head a couple of days ago and he didn’t miss practice.”
Felton’s absence will snap a streak of 65 consecutive games he’s participated in.
“When Raymond Felton is with our squad we do try to push it up and down the court about as good as any team I’ve ever coached,” Williams said. “It is a different team without Raymond, but we’ve got good players.”
It’s not his shooting that the Tar heels will miss, but more Felton’s ability to drive and dish. In fact, when Felton has been called on to do more from a scoring standpoint, UNC has been less successful. Last season, Felton averaged 12.7 points per game in Carolina’s losses and 10.8 in the wins.
“It’s a shame that Raymond’s not going to be able to play, because you would really enjoy seeing him,” Williams told the press in Oakland. “But he made a mistake and did something he shouldn’t have done. He didn’t follow instructions, so he’s got to pay that price and our team does.”
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“North Carolina might be the best team – I’ve seen on videotape – Santa Clara has ever played,” Santa Clara coach Dick Davey said. “A lot of people think I’ve got rocks in my head for wanting to compete against Roy Williams and North Carolina. I had a chance to coach against Roy four other times when he was with Kansas, and I would kind of agree with them.
“Santa Clara – slow, small and can’t shoot,” he continued. “I’ll tell you, if you can’t jump, you can’t shoot and you’re slow, you have some real problems playing a team like North Carolina. North Carolina is the fastest team I’ve ever seen get down the court. I don’t care who is missing from the ingredients.”
The Broncos, which finished last year with a 16-16 record, 6-8 in Western Athletic Conference play, return four starters. Guards Doron Perkins and Kyle Bailey, both seniors, averaged over 12 points and four rebounds apiece in 2003-04.
“We’re kind of encouraged by our guards this year, and they better be tomorrow night because they’re going to get trapped and there are going to be some issues come up that they’re going to have to deal with,” Davey said. “Our interior play has a lot of maturing to do.”
Williams is the first coach to bring two different teams to the Pete Newell Challenge.
Williams paid homage in his press conference to Newell, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Newell coached San Francisco, Michigan State and California. He was the first coach to win the National Invitational Tournament (USF, 1949), the NCAA title (Cal, 1959) and lead USA to an Olympic Gold Medal (1960). He later served as the general manager of the San Diego Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA.
“Bobby Knight first introduced me to Coach Newell when we were at a summer camp down in San Diego,” Williams said. “It was unique for me and it was a thrill for me, and it still is to this day. He is one of the true giants in coaching.”
But while both Davey and Williams honored Newell with their comments, they also heaped ample praise on each other.
“He’s not only one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around, but one of the most gracious also,” Davey said of his coaching counterpart tonight. “We served together on the NABC Board of Directors, and I have no more respect for any other coach in the game than I do for Roy Williams.”
Williams reciprocated by saying that while there are many coaches he holds in high regard, he said Davey is only one of a few he calls to play golf when in the Bay Area.