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It’s safe to say Coby White’s mini shooting slump has ended.
White had struggled shooting the ball against the top-level defenses of Virginia, Duke, and Florida State over the past two weeks (a combined 28 percent from the field) but scored a career-high 34 against Syracuse followed by 28 on the road against Clemson, shooting a sizzling 18 for 30 (60 percent) from the field in the two games.
That hot shooting was instrumental in both wins. Against Clemson, White scored 14 of UNC’s first 19 against Clemson, while his teammates struggled to find the range through the first 10 minutes of that game. And while Syracuse shot nearly 50 percent from the field, White’s six threes paved the way as Carolina scored 93 on the Orange’s fabled matchup zone defense.
It was enough to earn the Greenfield School product both the ACC Player of the Week as well as Freshman of the Week honors, as announced by the league office Monday afternoon.
White’s decision-making, however, remains a work in progress, with four turnovers in both games, including a terrible live-ball turnover with under 1:20 to play in a tight game. (This count excludes the fifth turnover oddly credited to him in the final two seconds of the Clemson game.) White has now averaged 4.25 turnovers per game over the past four games as better teams have scouted his tendencies, such as attempting to split the defenders on pick-and-roll action, and are adjusting to make him uncomfortable as a ball-handler and force him into less comfortable situations.
Intriguingly, White was joined by backup point guard Seventh Woods for a few minutes in the Clemson game, a lineup combination that hadn’t yet been used in ACC play. It’s unlikely we see much of that look going forward, but it may reappear in a key moment when Roy Williams wants to maximize White’s catch-and-shoot ability while minimizing the risk of a turnover.
If Carolina is to make a deep run in March, White will need to self-scout (with the help of the Carolina coaching staff) and counter what defenses are doing to force some of these key turnovers. Saturday’s matchup against No. 4 Duke should provide insight on White’s progress in this area.
WILLIAMS MISSES SECOND HALF AT CLEMSON
Speaking of Williams, the Carolina head coach collapsed on the sideline thanks to another bout of vertigo late in the first half against Clemson, with longtime assistant (and former FSU head coach) Steve Robinson taking over the sideline for the remainder of the game. Williams will be on the sideline as the Heels face Boston College tonight.
“EARN THE RIGHT”
Carolina football kicked off spring practice on Sunday with what Mack Brown termed a “more confident, more physical, and tougher team than we saw three months ago.” In his opening press conferenceFriday, Brown gave credit to new strength coach Brian Hess for his ability to tailor to the needs of each player and position, emphasizing that the aim is not to create powerlifters, but rather better football players.
The new team motto was also unveiled on Friday: “Earn the right.” Brown explained, “We are demanding that the guys simply earn the right for everything they do … on the field and off the field.”
NEW OFFENSE, NEW QUARTERBACKS
One thing’s for sure: The UNC offense will look quite different from last season. Not only has Phil Longo has brought his version of the Air Raid offense to Carolina, the top two quarterbacks on last season’s starting depth chart have now moved on from playing that position.
Last season’s starting quarterback, Nathan Elliott, announced on Friday that he would follow former UNC quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf to Arkansas State, where he will serve as a graduate assistant coach. Elliott would have been a fifth-year senior in 2019, but had already graduated from Carolina.
Chazz Surratt, who also started several games over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, has moved to linebacker. Photos shared on social media suggest that Surratt has embraced that transition with extra time in the weight room.
Redshirt freshmen Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder — each of whom looked promising before injuries in 2018 — will compete for the job with four-star true freshman Sam Howell.
Brown also discussed two other potential position switches, with redshirt freshman Devon Lawrence moving from running back to slot receiver and redshirt freshman Avery Jones working at nose tackle as well as on the offensive line the spring.
NEW TURF AT KENAN?
Brown also discussed the possibility that UNC may install artificial turf at Kenan Stadium, indicating that the decision had not yet been made. However, Brown said he and athletic director Bubba Cunningham were researching the best options, including discussions with other schools that have made the switch to artificial turf.
STATS OF THE WEEK
6x2. Cam Johnson and Coby White are the first pair of UNC players to each hit six three-pointers in a single game. White is also the first UNC player ever to hit six threes in consecutive games.
13x6. Carolina has made 13 or more threes six times this season. No other UNC team has done it more than five times (2012–2013).
3x30+. White is the only UNC freshman ever to score 30+ points in three games.
Jason Staples has covered college football since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter @DocStaples and check out more of his work at InsideCarolina.com.