The current state of the UNC basketball program has its fans giddy with anticipation. And with every passing game, the excitement grows.
No. 8 Georgia Tech (11-2, 2-0) may hang close early when it travels to third-ranked North Carolina (13-1, 2-0) for a 7 p.m. tip-off Wednesday. By the time Marvin Williams enters the game, the Yellow Jackets just might be on the ropes. At least that has been the standard operating procedure for most Tar Heels’ opponents so far this season.
“I just try to play hard and give those guys a rest,” Marvin Williams said. “I try to play tough. Some of those guys are pretty big, but I try to be tough.”
It’s not that UNC coach Roy Williams is trying to hide his 6-foot-9 freshman prodigy (though who could blame him?), surely Marvin Williams is starting material –- even on the Tar Heels’ loaded roster that easily goes eight-deep without skipping a beat. But it’s understandable why the coach wouldn’t want to change a thing right now that might alter the current chemistry.
And, again, as if things couldn’t get any better, Marvin Williams –- averaging 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds in about 22 minutes per game –- is perfectly happy with his current role on the team.
“Definitely,” Marvin Williams said. “I’m learning a lot. I’m just trying to follow in Sean [May’s] and Jawad [Williams’] footsteps. I hope to be as big time as them one day.”
Still, he can’t help but read in the media of his NBA potential. But he says he doesn’t think about the future much past his team’s next opponent.
“You just live day-by-day,” he said. “My future is something only God knows. It’s in his hands.”
Senior Jawad Williams has taken Marvin Williams under is wing in some regards, but he says he won’t reveal his most treasured secrets until he’s long gone. You see, the upperclassman still has to battle it out with his protégé in practice.
“Jawad has taught me how to carry myself on and off the court…how to be professional,” Marvin Williams said.
“The best thing about Marvin is he’s a great listener,” added Jawad Williams. “If you tell him something, you only have to tell him once. He picks up on things real well.
“Marvin is one of the most aggressive guys on our team. He plays extremely hard. He does a lot of great things for us besides score the basketball. He’s always a plus.”
Marvin Williams’ has made 83 percent of his free throw opportunities and to have such an inside threat making his free throws as a freshman is a huge boost to the team.
He credits his father, Marvin, Sr., for working with him on his free throw shooting. But it wasn’t some type of “Earl Woods-like obsession;” Senior didn’t force Junior to stand out in the cold and take 500 shots in one outing or anything like that. Marvin possessed the impetus to learn, and Marvin, Sr. just made sure he was available to help.
“I would just shoot until my arm got tired,” Marvin said. “Dad would stand there and rebound all day.”
Carolina is shooting 52.9 percent from the floor – its highest mark since the 1987-88 (53.5). The Tar Heels lead the ACC in scoring, scoring margin, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage (44.4) and free throw percentage (72.6). Six players are shooting at least 50 percent from the field – Jawad Williams, David Noel, Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams.
This will the first time since Jan. 13, 1993, that Tech and UNC have met while both were in the AP Top 10. On that day, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels defeated the eighth-ranked Yellow Jackets 80-67 in the Smith Center. Carolina leads the all-time series between the two teams (55-18) and as won 10 of the last 14 meetings.
UNC has forced 303 turnovers, an average of 21.6 per contest.