While the 2007 ACC Champions will begin preparations to improve on last season’s 31-7 record at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, this night was more about celebrating a team that returns three starters and a wealth of talented depth – a squad determined to purge the memories of an Elite Eight collapse by winning the national championship.
“It feels good,” junior guard Bobby Frasor said. “I was excited to be out there. It was good to be out in front of the fans again and do what you do.”
This season’s theme is “Take Everything, Give Up Nothing,” a takeoff of the 2007 blockbuster movie “300” – a story of 300 Spartans battling thousands of Persians with a Herculean refuse-to-lose mindset.
That motto decorated thousands of Carolina blue shirts throughout the Smith Center, and even emcee and UNC alum Stuart Scott spoke about the meaning behind the theme and the special nature that binds all fans to Tar Heel basketball.
“It means more than a t-shirt – it's part of your identity,” Scott said to the crowd.
The highlight of the evening’s activities was the Blue-White scrimmage, which ended in a 37-37 tie. Will Graves led the White team with 11 points, while Ty Lawson contributed 10 points and two steals for assistant coach Joe Holladay’s squad.
Marcus Ginyard scored a team-high 11 points for assistant coach Steve Robinson’s Blue team, followed closely by Danny Green’s 10 points and Tyler Hansbrough’s nine points.
The player introductions were quite the show, complete with fireballs, fireworks, smoke and blue spotlights. The players made their entrance down through the stands, celebrating with fans as they made their way onto the court.
Hansbrough ignited the packed house with an excited jumping display, while Quentin Thomas – the team’s lone scholarship senior – took a lap around the court to hype the crowd, obviously enjoying his final “Late Night.”
While Thomas -- who sat out the scrimmage with a knee injury - may see limited playing time this season, his locker room presence will be an essential ingredient for this program to achieve its goal of a sixth national championship.
“He can tell you the right things when you’re feeling down,” Deon Thompson said of Thomas. “Since he’s been here, he’s been through so much with injuries. Almost every year it’s been something, so I think he’s one of the toughest kids on our team mentally and staying positive. So having him around – if he tells you something, you’re going to listen to it.”
As usual, the evening’s multitude of skits provided humorous looks into the dancing and acting abilities of North Carolina’s roster.
Green and Wayne Ellington attempted a re-enactment of Saturday Night Live’s “Wayne’s World,” while Thomas and Alex Stepheson drew laughs portraying the “Shake ‘n’ Bake” duo from “Talladega Nights.”
Bobby Frasor and Ginyard stole the show, however, as Flavor Flav and his lady friend “Martha,” respectively. These skits are not done without preparation – the players put in a number of hours learning the words and dance moves in order to put on a good performance.
“We’ve started since last Sunday – about two hours a night,” Frasor said. “The dance team was trying to teach us steps and the choreography and all of that. It’s pretty time consuming. A lot of the guys aren’t happy when they’re there, but everything turned out well this year.”
With committed recruits Ed Davis (’08), Larry Drew (’08) and Kendall Marshall (’10) joining Tar Heel junior targets Dominic Cheek, Mason Plumlee and David Wear and Travis Wear on the front row, Roy Williams even got into the action with some dance moves alongside local musical group Liquid Pleasure.
Although things turn serious when the coaching staff rolls out the balls Saturday morning, “Late Night With Roy” provides a fun and entertaining atmosphere to get basketball back into the hearts and minds of fans and players alike.
“It’s exciting to get back into the flow of things,” Frasor said. “Doing all the drills we [go] through, everybody wants to go hard. So there’s a lot of energy around practice the first week.”
Tar Heel fans will next see the team on the court in three weeks, with an exhibition against Shaw University on Saturday, Nov. 3.