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Heel Tough Blog: Live Action 2023 Takeaways

Grant Halverson- Getty Images

While the Tar Heels are preparing for a top 25 battle on the gridiron tomorrow night in Chapel Hill, the town was buzzing for a different reason on Friday night. That’s because in the Smith Center, the 2023-24 Tar Heel basketball squads were taking to the floor for the first time this year. The extremely talented women's team took the floor first and showed their potential to the crowd before the men’s team had their opportunity to do the same. Here is a look at our takeaways from the men’s scrimmage that gave us a first look at a ton of newcomers to the program.

True Freshmen Shine

Friday was the first look at the Tar Heels' two members of their 2023 recruiting class and both had impressive nights for themselves. As expected, Elliot Cadeau came out aggressive, scoring on the first play of the game and dishing out some outstanding assists throughout the night. What may not have been expected was how he took over the game down the stretch for the blue team, hitting their last three baskets of the night, including two tough threes. Meanwhile, Zayden High showed he may not need as much time as once thought. He was very active the entire night, showing his great mixture of physicality and athleticism on both ends of the floor. Both guys exceeded expectations on Friday night and showed that they will play significant roles for this team this season.

Tempo and Ball Movement Much Better

There are a lot of things from last year’s team that we want to see change for the better this season and on Friday night two of them were noticeably better. With Cadeau in to fold, the pace was expected to pick up, but it wasn’t just him who played with it in this scrimmage. Both teams were getting up and down the floor at a high rate, especially in the second half and it led to some easy baskets that just haven’t been there often enough in recent years. Another area where the team showed significant improvement from last year was ball movement. Both sides made smart, crisp passes the entire night and set their offenses up with great opportunities to score the ball the entire night. These areas were crucial for the Tar Heels to show improvement after last year and tonight was a good first step.

Three Point and Free Throw Shooting Still a Work in Progress

While the Tar Heels were able to score the ball well inside with their big men, the team did not shoot the ball well tonight. Neither squad shot the ball well from the outside despite getting some good looks, something that is a little bit concerning considering perimeter shooting was supposed to be a strength of the group that the team brought in via the transfer portal. The team also had a rough night from the charity stripe, including the veterans. R.J. Davis missed some important free throws throughout the night, as did Armando Bacot. The team will need them and the rest of the squad to find their rhythm shooting the ball by the time the regular season rolls around.

Hubert Davis Continues to Talk About Closeness

Prior to the tip of the scrimmage, head coach Hubert Davis spoke to the crowd and the first thing that he talked about was the closeness of this team, something he has mentioned many times this offseason. Davis said that this is one of the closest groups that he has been around and they showed that on Friday night. After everything that the team went through a year ago when it came to cohesiveness issues, it’s good to see that this team is displaying a more united front to begin this season.

Eric Montross’s Message Was a Powerful One

The former Tar Heel big man wasn’t on the sideline or even in the building on Friday night, but he had the most powerful message. In his first appearance since being diagnosed with cancer back in the spring, Montross announced that he will not be on the sidelines this season calling Tar Heel basketball as he continues his treatment, but he also did his part to bring more awareness to the horrible disease. He praised the commitment of Coach Davis’s squad to visiting and supporting the UNC Children’s Hospital and asked fans to reach out to someone they know who is dealing with cancer in some form or fashion. This was a great message that hopefully every Tar Heel fan watching takes to heart.

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