CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Regardless of how much talent returns, North Carolina still needs Isaiah Hicks to carve out some playing time in a crowded frontcourt.
Hicks scored 14 points in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage to punctuate Friday’s annual “Late Night with Roy” show, which is the ceremonial start to the basketball season.
Hicks, a 6-foot-9 junior, went 6-for-9 from the field according to unofficial statistics in the White team’s 41-32 victory over the Blue team.
“Isaiah has had a good preseason, has worked his tail off in the offseason,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “You’re right, we need him to score, we need him to take the ball to the basket and be a lot more aggressive than he’s been in the past.”
Hicks averaged 6.6 points and shot 54 percent from the field as a reserve in 35 of 38 games last season playing behind all-Atlantic Coast Conference pick Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks inside. Hicks could force his way into more minutes – he averaged 14.8 last season – if he can carry over the attacking style he showed Friday night into the season.
“He didn’t play a lot last year so teams really don’t have a scouting report for him, but the guy can do so many things,” senior center Joel James said. “He’s a mismatch for any guy in the country right now. He can do a lot of great things and score the ball effortlessly, whenever he wants to.”
Hicks’ potential is one of many strengths for a UNC team that enters the season with huge expectations.
Four starters and nine of the top 10 scorers return from a team that took eventual finalist Wisconsin to the final minutes of an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 loss. UNC was tied with Kentucky for No. 1 in the USA Today coaches’ poll, while The Associated Press Top 25 debuts Nov. 2.
“We actually don’t even talk about it that much,” sophomore Theo Pinson said of the No. 1 ranking. “Once we hear the alerts that come to our phone and stuff like that, we see it. We’re like, `Well, no need to talk about it, just go out there and play basketball.’ We’re just ready to play, really.”
The annual event full of dancing, skits and humor was also part of a daylong tribute to late ESPN broadcaster and alumnus Stuart Scott. The school inducted Scott in the afternoon into the North Carolina Journalism Hall of Fame, based in the UNC School of Media and Journalism.
The school honored Scott during “Late Night,” which he first hosted in 2001 and did so 10 times. Scott died in January after a lengthy fight against cancer.