CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina on Friday night held its annual “Late Night With Roy” event, which celebrates the start of basketball season. You can read about the highlights in a story right here.
And now, some expanded thoughts and notes:
MEEKS STEALS THE SHOW
I think Tar Heels fans would have be pleased with what transpired tonight. Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The basketball portion of Late Night consisted of a light 20-minute scrimmage. But there were some positive takeaways – namely the play of Kennedy Meeks, the freshman forward from Charlotte.
Meeks led the White team with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and he was in a lot better shape than some might have anticipated. Roy Williams said Meeks arrived at UNC weighing 317 pounds, and that he’s down to 284. Meeks still has work to do to be able to handle Williams’ preferred pace.
Even so, Meeks has gone from a potential project to a potential starter in the span of a couple months. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Meeks started. He’s a load inside, he’s a natural rebounder and he has a nice, soft touch around the basket. All things UNC missed a season ago.
WARM RECEPTION FOR HAIRSTON
As I wrote about at the top of the story linked above, P.J. Hairston received a nice reception from the Smith Center crowd. That wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but it was still fair to wonder how Hairston would be received, given his trouble-filled summer that left him with an indefinite suspension.
Hairston’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, and he received the loudest ovation of any of his teammates during the player introductions. He played well, too, and led all scorers with 20 points – 12 of which came on four 3-pointers.
Afterward, Williams again said that it remains to be seen how many games Hairston will miss. The NCAA will have a say in the length of Hairston’s suspension, which isn’t a surprise given Hairston’s use of rental cars that he didn’t pay for. The only question is the monetary value of those rentals, and how the NCAA weighs that against any mitigating factors it might consider.
As is routinely the case in cases like this, behind-the-scenes details are difficult to come by. UNC has no obligation to share anything about Hairston’s reinstatement process, and the NCAA won’t be disclosing anything, either. So we’re left to wait and wonder when Hairston will play.
NCAA INVOLVED WITH MCDONALD, TOO
For the first time, Williams on Friday said that UNC has been in talks with the NCAA about Leslie McDonald, too. McDonald, the senior guard, was the subject of a cease-and-desist letter that UNC sent to a mouth guard company in the summer. The company had been using McDonald to promote its product.
McDonald, too, wore a designer mouth guard in a game last season. His use of the mouth guard, made by the same company that used McDonald in an advertisement, raised questions about how he received it and who paid for it. Like in Hairston’s case, it’s unclear exactly what McDonald faces in terms of a potential punishment. Maybe he misses time. Maybe he doesn’t.
Said Williams: “The NCAA doesn’t call me and ask me what I think. All the rumors and everything that’s been going around since June – we’ve been addressing those. And it’s the kind of thing where there’s still things in process with P.J., and then Leslie both. But (the NCAA) is part of it, yes.”
MAY LEADS WILLIAMS TRIBUTE
Sean May, who helped lead UNC to the 2005 national championship, paid a surprise visit to the Smith Center to lead a tribute to Williams, who last March completed his 10th season as the Tar Heels’ head coach. May thanked Williams for teaching him a variety of lessons, and then UNC played a video that honored Williams accomplishments both on and off the court.
Williams said it was “a surprise” to see May. The video, meanwhile, featured Tyler Hansbrough and several other former UNC players who have played for Williams, who also guided the Tar Heels to the 2009 national championship.
TOKOTO TO SIT OUT EXHIBITION
J.P. Tokoto, the sophomore forward, will miss the exhibition game on Nov. 1 against UNC-Pembroke because of a paperwork issue with an NCAA-sanctioned summer league in which he played in Milwaukee. Tokoto also sat out UNC’s exhibition game last week against Vanderbilt in Memphis. He will be able to play in the season-opener on Nov. 8 against Oakland.