North Carolina ushered in the Hubert Davis era with the annual “Late Night” basketball showcase Friday at the Dean E. Smith Center.
Gone were the skits, costume changes and dance routines that came to define the event under newly retired coach Roy Williams. Davis brought it back to basketball. The men’s team scrimmaged in the fashion of an old school Blue-White game in which Davis himself participated when he played from 1988-92.
The Blue team included Dontrez Styles, Justin McKoy and Kerwin Walton in the starting lineup. D’Marco Dunn, Jackson Watkins and Ryan McAdoo were reserves.
The White team featured Anthony Harris, R.J. Davis, Leaky Black, Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek. Creighton Lebo, Dewu Farris and Rob Landry were reserves.
R.J. Davis led the way with 14 points including 3-for-8 from 3-point range. Garcia’s 12 and Manek’s 11 were the only other double-figure scorers for the White team.
UNC didn’t hold Late Night last season due to the pandemic and restrictions on attendance at the time. So fans not only made a welcomed return to the building, they got to witness a taste of what Hubert Davis’ playing style will look like.
The biggest difference may be in the spacing of the floor, where the Heels played a lot of four-out, 1-in as opposed to a high-low set with two post players always around the lane.
Seven players made at least one 3-pointer — including front court players Bacot, Manek, McKoy and Garcia — after the past two seasons where UNC was among the worst 3-point shooting team in the ACC.
UNC did not have postgame interviews, but Hubert Davis spoke to the crowd after their introductions talking about his childhood and attending his first Carolina game.
“I remembered telling my dad, this is where I want to go,” he said. “And I wanted to run through that tunnel.”
Davis also didn’t shy away from pointing to the rafters where six NCAA championship banners slightly swayed and what it would mean to the current players to raise another one.
His speech came after about a 10-minute tribute video was played. Photos that encompassed Davis’ playing career at UNC and in the NBA and his time as an ESPN commentator and assistant coach faded in and out while video testimonials that included ESPN’s Rece Davis and former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson. The majority of voices came from former UNC players including Marcus Paige, Theo Pinson, Brice Johnson and Luke Maye. And of course, Roy Williams, who was not present, was part of the presentation.
The men’s and women’s teams, after individual introductions, combined teams for a 3-point contest.
R.J. Davis made 19 3s in 45 seconds while teaming with Kayla McPherson. Kerwin Walton, who made 17, with Eva Hodgson as his teammate, would tie their total of 26 to force a shoot-off. Brady Manek and Carlie Littlefield made 11 each, but were eliminated.
In 30 seconds, Walton made 14 more and Hodgson chipped in nine combined to make 23 for the win. Davis and McPherson could only manage 17.