When Bobby Frasor stepped in front of the microphone to address the media following the UNC variety show, he did so with blood on his jersey, courtesy of an elbow to his nose from his longtime roommate, Tyler Hansbrough. If you needed any further evidence that basketball season is upon us, that should do the trick.
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The reigning National Player of the Year refused to take even this night off, scoring 22 points and grabbing six rebounds – all offensive – to lead the White Team past the Blue Team, 48-45, in a 20-minute scrimmage at the end of the festivities. Danny Green scored 23 points for the losing squad, knocking down 8 of his 13 field goal attempts in a sloppy contest saturated with various degrees of rust.
“It wasn’t the best basketball, but we had a lot of fun,” Green said.
“Late Night with Roy” typically starts the season, but due to the semester break falling during the first practice opportunity last weekend, the event was moved to Friday. With a veteran lineup boasting talent and depth, it’s no surprise that the first week of practice was intense.
“It’s competitive – the way Coach [Roy] Williams wants it,” Frasor said. “You know you’re going up against some of the best players in the country in every drill you have, so guys are going hard at each other. Coach Williams is really being tough on us and we’re concentrating on defense and being the best we can be.”
Last season’s Tar Heel squad that posted a 36-3 record with an ACC Championship and a Final Four appearance has essentially remained intact, minus the losses of Quentin Thomas (graduation) and Alex Stepheson (transfer). North Carolina’s top-six scorers are back, and that continuity is expected to pay dividends.
“It helps a lot, not just for the older guys, but for the younger guys as well,” Green said. “It helps them come along a lot faster and learn little tricks of the game, get stronger and welcome them into the ACC.”
One of those younger players shined during Friday’s scrimmage, as freshman center Tyler Zeller posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Playing alongside Hansbrough, the Washington, Ind. product displayed a polar opposite skill set than his senior counterpart.
While Hansbrough’s game is built around brute strength and tenacity, Zeller’s revolves around a smooth shooting touch and the ability to get up and down the floor.
“Tyler [Zeller] really, really runs the floor well,” Frasor said. “In practice, he just gets out and he can beat some of the guards down the floor and that’s an amazing quality for a seven-footer to have.”
But freshmen still serve as the low man on the totem pole, and that fact was made abundantly clear during the skit portion of the evening when the entire rookie class trotted out in neon green and pink 1980s aerobic gear that ended with Zeller performing “the worm” in front of a packed house at the Dean E. Smith Center.
ESPN anchor and UNC alum Stuart Scott reprised his role as the “Late Night” emcee, as skits ranged from a homage to Maui Invitational trip next, complete with David Noel returning as “Devine Noel,” to the senior class sporting cutoff jeans, tank tops and doo-rags while singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days.”
The music selections touched a variety of genres, with Soulja Boy’s “Get Silly” following Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “Hello, Detroit.”
But the highlight of evening – as it was a year ago – was Bobby Frasor playing Roy Williams in several video clips. The central theme in the skits was Williams’ admonishment of the NCAA in its use of sticker-style logos last March, as Frasor was shown doing everyday activities – such as playing golf, picking up the morning paper, addressing his team – and ultimately slipping and falling on an ill-placed NCAA logo.
“Late Night is always fun,” Frasor said. “You get to put on a show for the fans. You get to be something that you don’t normally do. You get to step out of that stereotypical athlete role and be an actor, be a dancer, put on a skit, sing a song maybe, so there’s a lot of different things you can do and open up.”
North Carolina’s slogan this season is “Back to Business,” but for a short while on Friday night, it was simply about having a good time.
The Tar Heels will take the Smith Center court for the first time in exhibition action on Nov. 8 against UNC-Pembroke.