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Back to the Basics: Lace Em' Up!

UNC opened their doors to media yesterday afternoon for first impressions of the first year in HD.

The practice opened up with your topical stretching, but you're not here for workout tips. You want dramatic takes on what this team looked like and the crazy expectations from a two-hour watch session. You're smart.

The biggest concern for the new head coach, Hubert Davis, was that he will run the Carolina program differently from his predecessor. However, the concern was not felt in the Dean Dome; everyone knew he was the man for the job. Speaking to players for the first time since the coaching change, they all echoed the same sentiments, 

"I stayed because of him (Coach Davis)"

Coach Davis provides the stability this young Carolina team needs and the refresh the program desired. There hasn't been an element in the basketball world he hasn't touched, which provides his players more than a coach, but an example. 

In the second official practice for the Tar Heels, reporters were interested in seeing the Coach Davis approach and the answer in return. Davis's style of coaching was immediately evident in his warm-up suit, with socks tucked in to his joggers and Jay's on; he'll be practical. Every move he needed done on the court? Demonstrated full out. Communication? Vocalize how loud it needed to be. Basketball plays? Take the easy shot. 

Laziness, turnovers and lack of title respect weren't tolerated on Roy Williams court. 

The first practice focused on basketball basics: ball handling, defensive plays, transitions and communication. 

Here are a few first impressions:

- Armando Bacot: The junior looks nothing like the picture that went viral. I feel like we've all been lied to (joking), but Bacot appears noticeably leaner and stronger. His shot selection has expanded; outside of his usual inside presence, Bacot was shooting around the perimeter. Expect to see him pulling the trigger from outside the box.

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- Caleb Love: Speaking to press two weeks ago, Love expressed his growth mentally and physically, "I'm mentally in the best space I've ever been in and my shot has gotten better". The sophomore's return was 50% expected, but if he left, no one would have charged him for it. After a shaky freshmen year, Love's return comes with lofty expectations, but he wears it well. He doesn't pose as a player who shies away from responsibility, and during practice, he stepped up in more ways than one; being the coach when one wasn't present. And, his dunking? Crazy.

- Dontrez Styles: The versatile guard from Kinston who showed athleticism and attentiveness. Styles showed tremendous efforts on both sides of the ball, with a great attack to the basket. Former players spoke highly of the guard calling him "the player to watch". Word on Styles is that every time he hits the court, it's tunnel vision. He was quoted as a player who wants it more than anyone and is willing to do whatever it takes to win.

- RJ Davis: His greatest development? defense. This sophomore maybe giving Jackie Manuel a run for his money in the defensive department. During practice, Davis repeatedly received praise for locking down his opponent and finishing out plays. His shot appeared cleaner and he's noticeably stronger. 

- Justin Mckoy: The hometown kid. Playing for UNC didn't happen the first round for Mckoy, but he doesn't make the same mistake twice. Mckoy appeared comfortable in Carolina blue and demonstrated clean plays. His shot was gradual but effective, and he has some hops.

- DeMarco Dunn: Hailing from Fayetteville, Dunn is another player who stood out to returned players, "He stayed longer and made sure he asked questions from everyone he could. He soaked up crazy knowledge from us." Dunn is described as a player who won't quit. Every possession matters, and the offensive play isn't over until the ball is in the basket. Prolific is another word given to the freshman, stating that his knowledge exceeds basketball. Ask him anything you want pertaining to the world, and his answer is astute and experienced. 

- Puff Johnson: The excitement to witness the little brother of Cameron Johnson still rises following an injury his freshman year. Johnson appeared agile and flexible; at one point he seemed to have caught a cramp, but his bounce back was quick. Unquestionably, he expects to provide the offensive help expected of him; his shot looked as clean and quick when Coach Williams recruited him. 

Surely there is a UNC fan screaming "Final Four," (here's looking at you, BDaht). High expectations for this season shouldn't exceed your enthusiasm for the commitment and growth of these players who returned to the unknown. The unknown of the success of a new coach and new direction from a tried and true tradition.

The best quote of practice?

"You're tired? I'm tired of not winning games and hanging up banners."

If nothing else, Coach Davis is here to win.