Junior center Armando Bacot and sophomore guard RJ Davis met with the media over Zoom on Wednesday, September 8 to discuss a variety of topics.
Davis was asked about an alliterative assortment of topics to begin his availability.
During the offseason, new Carolina basketball head coach Hubert Davis brought in transfers Justin McKoy (Jr. | F | Virginia), Brady Manek (Grad | F | Oklahoma), and Dawson Garcia (So. | F | Marquette).
This triumvirate of players is a clear indication of Coach Davis’s intentions as well as the makeup of the existing roster and incoming freshmen. The backcourt was already saturated with returners Caleb Love, Davis, Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Puff Johnson as well as freshmen D’Marco Dunn and Dontrez Styles.
Given the frontcourt departures (Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Sterling Manley, and Walker Miller), it was necessary for Coach Davis to re-build his stable of bigs.
Also, the addition of these three young men show a desire to have a “Luke Maye-like” stretch four to pair alongside Bacot. In his four-year career at Oklahoma, Manek shot 37.4% (235-628) from three, Garcia shot 35.6% (26-73) in his freshman year at Marquette, and McKoy, while not taking many threes at Virginia, did hit three of the nine he attempted last season.
Coach Davis wanted to bring in bigs. Coach Davis wanted to bring in bigs who can shoot. He did just that.
But how are they fitting into the team dynamic? How does their style of play fit in with the Tar Heels?
“It was a great addition, our three transfers. I feel like they bring depth to the roster. All three of them play different games, which is great and makes us able to spread the floor and get different options, different looks,” Davis said.
“All three of them bring great personality off the court and on the court they’re always ready to work.”
Davis was next asked about his turnover struggles last season and how he has worked to correct those.
To provide some context, Davis averaged 1.9 turnovers per game in 2020-21. He had 54 total turnovers in 29 games played. Davis committed three-plus turnovers in 10 of those 29 games and multiple turnovers in 17 of the 29 games. He also contributed 56 assists in that same time span.
Much to his credit, Davis was candid about his turnover issues last year and didn’t try to pass blame. He owned his mistakes and discussed his work in the offseason.
Davis commented, “I just basically watched film. This past summer I really worked extremely hard. I think the game’s starting to slow down for me. I’m working on finding my open teammates, looking for when it’s time for me to score the ball, and just being mindful to cut down my turnovers as a point guard.”
The shift from Roy Williams to Hubert Davis was one of the biggest national college basketball storylines this offseason. While most people have observed from after, RJ Davis has had a front-row ticket to the changing of the guard.
To begin with, Coach Williams’s retirement took the players by surprise just like it did Carolina fans and the greater college basketball community.
Davis said, “It was definitely a shock when we all first heard the news.”
He continued, “I feel like Coach Davis, Coach Roy, they have a similar way as far as coaching style. They’re going to be on us to come out with a mentality to win. As for coaching styles, they do have some differences, but there is some similarity.”
For example, Davis said, “With this new generation of basketball, the game is more spread out and I feel like Coach Davis understands that as far as being able to space the floor out.”
With Caleb Love’s return for his sophomore year, the 2021-22 season will be the first time Carolina has had a returning lead guard since Joel Berry’s senior year in 2017-18.
Davis discussed roster turnover, and specifically the lack of it in the backcourt after having gone through multiple years of changing faces.
He spoke of the importance of getting that first year under their belts (he, Love, and Walton) and mentioned once again about learning to cut down on turnovers after a year of “being thrown into the fire”.
The shift from “thinking” to “reacting” is a huge leap and one that sophomores usually make at some point. With that in mind, it’s encouraging to hear Davis say, “At the end of the day we’ve just got to go out there and play basketball. With the backcourt, we’re all mature, we know the game, and we know how to play.”
We’ll get to see Davis and his teammates and his new coach do just that less than two months from now when the Tar Heels take on Elizabeth City State in an exhibition on Friday, November 5 in the Smith Center.
Stay with All Tar Heels for all your lead-in to the 2021-22 UNC college basketball season.
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