CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Balancing recruiting responsibilities with game prep during the season is a challenge for all college coaches. Roy Williams has maintained his visibility on the recruiting circuit while guiding the Tar Heels to their first 4-0 start in ACC play since 2000-01.
Williams provided some details on his recruiting travels and plans with host Jones Angell during his weekly radio show at Top of the Hill restaurant on Monday. His first priority has been keeping in touch with his most recent signees – forward Tony Bradley and guards Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson.
“I’ve seen all of them already since they’ve signed,” Williams said. “I saw Tony play in the Beach Ball Classic. I’ve seen Seventh play in the Chick-Fil-A and I’ve seen Brandon play one of his early games.”
With two of those signees set to play in the same game on Saturday, UNC’s performance against N.C. State at noon may determine if Williams makes the trip.
“Hopefully we’ll play well on Saturday, and if we do, then I’ll go recruiting Saturday night,” Williams said. “Brandon Robinson’s team plays against Tony Bradley’s team.”
Despite the three additions Williams has signed thus far, he’s still looking for more talent within the 2016 class and beyond.
“We’re still seriously recruiting a couple of seniors, and keeping our eyes and ears open for somebody else,” Williams said. “But we’ve also started focusing on the underclassmen already, too.”
Kennedy Meeks returned on Saturday against Syracuse. How do you think he responded to getting some playing time?
“I think he was good. I didn’t know how much we’d get out of him, he was effective when he got in there, he wasn’t effective with the screen on the ball, so down the stretch, I didn’t put him back in, because we needed to get some defensive stops. If you’d told me before the game that I’d be able to play him 14 minutes and get eight points, that kind of thing, I would have been pleased with that, and he felt fine yesterday. Came and got some treatment. We just finished practice a half an hour or so ago, he was able to go the whole practice today, and did well then, too.”
Typically, guys don’t lose starting spots because of injuries, correct?
“Right. It’s the kind of thing that you get that starting spot because you earn it with your sweat in the preseason practices. But you have to be able to play. I wouldn’t put somebody back in the starting lineup thinking that they were only going be limited to 14 minutes. I think if Kennedy has a great week again this week, there’s a chance I put him back in. But you know the good thing about being the head coach? You can change those daggum policies if you want to, so we’ll see what he’s like on Friday at the end of practice, how I feel at that time. I am pleased that he got the time that he did, and most of the things that he did during the course of the game.”
Brice Johnson was named ACC Player of the Week. Did this one seem like a no-brainer?
“I would think so. His numbers are just astonishing, and Clark Kellogg, I think, was the one who gave the terminology “stat sheet stuffer,” because that’s Brice. He’s got one in every category, and his defensive grade was good. It was 30-15, and you don’t qualify to be the defensive player of the game unless it’s 2-to-1. So 30-15 was the second-best grade he’s gotten this year. And there was really only one really bad category, and that was box-outs. He had four rebounds and he had eight bad box-outs [against Syracuse]. So if you have better box-outs, you get more rebounds, but he had eight bad box-outs. If you take those things away, his game that he had was really a big-time game.”
Saturday’s game against N.C. State will be just a few days short of the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Dean E. Smith Center. Did you ever think 30 years later this building would still be the home of Carolina basketball?
“No, but you know I probably never even thought that. I was trying to win the JV game and then try to win the varsity game too at that point. It’s been a magnificent arena, and people are shocked when we tell them that we’ve already been in the Smith Center longer than we spent in Carmichael. It’s been a fantastic place that needs some things done to it, and we’re trying to move in that direction to make it even a little bit better, but it’s hard to believe it’s 30 years that we’ve been in the place, and I just remember Steve Hale, six backdoor layups against Duke for, I think, 26 points that day in the opening game. And you’ve heard me say this, as soon as the game was over with, the team, we got out to the parking lot, got on the bus and went to the airport because we played Marquette on Sunday, the very next day, so we had to fly to Milwaukee.”
What ultimately do you envision for the Smith Center in the future or even a new facility? Do you have a big plan in your mind?
“Not really, you know. I’ve had people ask me that, and there’s no question that we need to do some things for the Smith Center, but it’s such a big number to renovate, and it’s such a big number to try and build a new facility, so if we can keep doing some things to keep it a first-class facility, I’m fine with it. But there are some things to do, and you’re asking a bad person, because I don’t see what the spectators see. I don’t see the lines in the concession stands or the big bathrooms or small bathrooms or whatever the dickens it is up there, because I don’t go, so I don’t get that perspective of it.
“But from a coach, if the crowd’s in there like they were for the Maryland game, and hopefully like they’ll be for the State game this Saturday, it’s a home-court advantage. Now sometimes it’s not a home court advantage, because we don’t get in there and get as enthused and as involved as we’d like, but boy, they were so sensational for the Maryland game. And some other games, they’ve been really, really good. So if they do that every time, and fill the place up, it’s a great home court advantage.
“In an ideal world, I think it’s too many seats. I think if we had 16-17,000 seats, we’d create more of a snob appeal; it wouldn’t be anybody just not going to the game unless your tickets sit back there. It’d be more of a prime ticket kind of thing, but that’s not what we have… I do think that would be the perfect situation, but we don’t have that, so let’s get everybody in there every time we can, and do a great job with a great building.”
Have you experimented using three bigs together (Brice Johnson/Isaiah Hicks/Kennedy Meeks) or three point guards together (Marcus Paige/Nate Britt/Joel Berry)?
“We’ve played three point guards in a game already. And yes, we have experimented with the all-beef team, and we’ve had Joel (James) and Kennedy in another big lineup. I told them if the guards don’t start doing a better job guarding the three, then we’ll play big guys, and if big guys don’t do a better job rebounding, we’ll play little guys. It’s what we call motivation. But no, we have tried all of those lineups.”
N.C. State is looking for its first conference win of the season against your team. Your thoughts on the game?
“There’s no question, they came in here last year and beat us. I remember that. Cat Barber’s having probably the most consistent scoring [streak] of anybody in our league. I think seven straight games over 20. With the Martin twins and Maverick (Rowan) and (Abdul-Malik) Abu up front, they’re a quality team. This league’s hard. It really is.”