CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina assistant coach Hubert Davis shared his perspective on the team's recent shooting struggles and detailed his advice to the players during the "Roy Williams Live" radio show on Tuesday night.
“I’ve talked to all of them,” said Davis, who was filling in for Williams. “I told them I had slumps like that all throughout my career when I was playing.”
Davis owns the UNC record for career 3-point field goal percentage at 43.5 (197-of-453) and currently ranks third in NBA history in career 3-point field goal percentage (44.1).
“When I got on the court, I said, 'What can I do to keep myself on the floor, what can I do to help the team win?'” Davis said. “'Maybe I’m not hitting my perimeter jump shot so let me get 10 rebounds, let me take a charge, let me get 10 assists, let me be the best at setting screens.'”
Davis also gave credence to one of basketball’s oldest adages: It always helps seeing the ball go in the basket.
“Try to get to the free throw line,” Davis said. “Try to drive the ball to the basket. The only thing you want to see is you want to see the ball go through that hoop.”
Davis also issued a warning to teams across the country about what UNC is capable of being once the slump is over.
“When those guys, and I said ‘when,’ and they will, and those shots are going to go in, they’re going to beat guys by 50,” Davis said, “because the way that Brice (Johnson) and those big guys have been playing, it’s going to be fun to watch when it comes around.”
During the stretch of poor shooting, do you think the team’s been playing okay despite shots not falling?
“I think one, the shots haven’t gone in. I think we’ve taken good shots. I think we have missed shots, particularly from the perimeter, that we normally hit. I think that when those shots don’t go in, it is effecting, sometimes, the way we play on the defensive end. You can never do that. Shots go in, shots don’t go in, that should never dictate you playing with effort and with passion. I think at times, because our shot hasn’t gone in, it has been effecting our attention to detail, it’s been effecting how hard we play, and one of the things that our guys are still trying to learn: We’re not good enough to go on the floor and not playing with effort. That was never a case when we grew up. Nobody, not one coach, Coach Smith, Coach Guthridge, nobody ever had to say you’ve got to play hard. I think, even with the missed shots we had last night, if we played with a sense of urgency, boxing out, getting to loose balls, contesting shots, finding Damien Lee, because we knew he wanted to shoot those 3’s in transition. Even though we shot poorly, I think the outcome would have been totally different last night.”
It felt like UNC struggled to get its bigs field goal attempts last night:
“Well first of all, Louisville is a terrific defensive team. One of the things is they average 14 turnovers, a little bit over 14 turnovers a game; that’s No. 1 in the ACC. So, they do a number of different things. They pressure full-court, they take chances. Half of their points come off of points off offensive rebounds and points off of turnovers. They do a terrific job of making teams hurry up and not allow them to run their offense like they do in shootaround. In their half-court, they play a match-up zone. Zone has different looks. Sometimes looks like a zone, sometimes it looks like man, sometimes it’s zone and man in one possession.
"One of the things that we did not take advantage of is our post guys posting strong and playing big on the block. Louisville has major size. Their starting front court was 6’10 and 7-foot, and they got in foul trouble and brought in another 7-footer and another 6’10 guy. One of the things about Louisville is their big guys are foul prone. They’re always in foul trouble. I thought one of the advantages that we could have is getting the ball into the low post and playing big. What I mean, big guys playing big, is throw the ball into the post, our big guys aren’t shooting jump shots and fade-away jump shots, they’re going straight to the guy’s chest, straight through his nose, straight to the rim and he’s either gonna score, or get fouled or get both. I don’t think we did enough of that. I think at times, Isaiah (Hicks) did that. I think at times, Brice did that. But we did not do that on a consistent basis, and next time that we play them and other teams that we play, that’s one of our strengths, we’ve got to take advantage of it.”
Has Kennedy Meeks struggled to get back in form since his injury?
“He has. He played really well against N.C. State in the second half, he really caught his rhythm. One of the things for Kennedy is to be aggressive. He’s a big body. When he posts up hard as a defender, it is very hard to get around him, very hard to defend him. One of the things Kennedy likes to do is shoot that fade-away jump shot, but he is very effective when he posts low, down low on the block, and takes it strong and gets to the bucket because he’s a good free throw shooter, and also he’s skilled to score around the basket. That’s something that, not only from Kennedy, but from everybody, we need them to play big and play aggressive and understand that very few teams in the country have dominant post players. We do. So that’s something that we want to do. We want to give them the ball. Carolina basketball, we always—a big part of our offense is throwing the ball down low to the blocks. When we give it to them, we want them to be aggressive and be confident with the ball. I think Kennedy will do that. He’s starting to get into his rhythm, but now we need him to be consistent and he’ll be good to go on Saturday against Notre Dame.”
What’s the biggest thing you miss about playing basketball?
“The thing that I miss? Being able to run up and down the floor and my back not go out or pull a hamstring. I miss being in the locker room. I miss those relationships in the locker room. I miss running out of that tunnel. I miss being in the gym by yourself working on your game and all you hear is that ball going through the net. And I miss playing on the road. I loved playing on the road. I loved playing in the Smith Center, but there was nothing better than the crowd screaming at Reynolds Coliseum, you hit a shot, and they’re extremely quiet.”
Is the recruiting landscape what you thought it would be when you took this job now that you’re on the road and selling the program?
“It’s totally different from what I thought recruiting would be. It’s very different from when I came to school. I was a high school All-American, but even the guys I played with like Rick Fox, King Rice, J.R. Reid, there’s a reason why we picked Carolina. We wanted to be a part of this community, we wanted to be a part of this university, we wanted to be a part of this program. We wanted to be coached by Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge, and we wanted to get a degree and education from the University of North Carolina. When we came here, we had the idea of how we can serve this place. Not that it’s bad, but kids don’t think of it that way anymore. They’re deciding, in large part, what place can serve me the best? So many times I think kids, not only here, but in other places, they don’t unpack their bags. They don’t have two feet in this place, and that’s a thing that saddens me.
"This place is beautiful. To be in a hurry to leave this place, I don’t understand it. So many kids today, we very rarely have relationships or deal with relationships where it’s the mom and the dad and the high school coach. There’s so many people that we’re talking to. The circle around these kids is unbelievable. Even though I love talking about Carolina, I love selling this program, I love telling recruits and families and coaches the experience I had here and what a beautiful place this is, I want guys that want to be here. I want guys that want to be a part of this place. I want guys that want to want to come here and serve this community and this organization and this basketball program. Those are the guys that we want here. It’s changed a little bit. To be honest with you, it saddens me.”