It would be easy to call the start of this men’s basketball season the true beginning of a new era for Carolina. Although Hubert Davis is entering his third season as the program’s head coach, this is the first year the Tar Heels have had a roster nearly identical to his own. And for the first year UNC really depends on the transfer portal to fill out the team; five Tar Heels who spent last season playing for a different university. Add in true freshmen Zayden High and Elliot Cadeau, and that’s seven freshmen in the fold.
It will take some getting used to for Tar Heel fans, especially those who remember the days of four-year players waking up at the end of the bench and lighting up as they walked. But college athletics is in a new world now, and Carolina would be wise to move on.
And according to fifth-year team spokesman Armando Bacot, there is little benefit to having so many faces on the team this year.
“It was good to have a lot of new guys, as we just ran last season,” said Bacot on Friday. “We haven’t thought about that at all, because the guys in the team haven’t gone through that yet. Few of us were part of that. It was nice and refreshing.”
One of those newcomers is Paxson Wojcik, who split his last four seasons of college basketball between Loyola Chicago and the Browns. Veterans of the UNC team will know Wojcik’s name: his father, Doug, was an assistant under head coach Matt Doherty in the early 2000s. But Paxson said family ties were not a factor in his decision. Instead, it had to do with Carolina’s head coach.
“Coach Davis’ interest is something that stood out to me the most,” said Wojcik. “He loves this place and talks a lot about it. He being a player, coming back, meeting his wife here. This is his home. And I really knew how special the place was from hearing him talk about it. So that was something that really appealed to me.
“And being a part of a program like Carolina basketball, with a rich tradition and a winning tradition. Just the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself really appealed to me.”
There is a dubious honor shared among UNC’s five transfers: none of them made the NCAA tournament last spring. When you join Carolina’s returners, who are fresh off their disappointing season, the team as a whole can seem like an island of misfit toys. And Bacot said that island is already made of strong chemicals.
“It’s probably the closest I’ve had with the team since I’ve been here, except maybe my first year,” he said. “I love coming in here every day, working out, lifting, going out with my teammates. It was good. We seem to be a team that really wants to play and win, and I think that’s encouraging.”
Bacot’s confidence is a good sign for the Tar Heels, especially since the big man has never been shy about being honest when speaking to the media. But as last season showed everyone, talk is cheap. Carolina’s performance early last fall was a real sign of what the season had in store, and those signs weren’t good. For UNC to truly put those memories to rest, it all starts tonight.
Featured photo by Todd Melet
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