North Carolina freshman wing Nassir Little knew if he wanted to get more playing time on Friday, he had to crash the boards.
Little, who was the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2018, and a McDonald’s All-American in high school, had high expectations heading into the season. He had 7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks in his first college game, but he only played in 18 minutes.
He wanted to make a bigger impact.
“On Tuesday, I really felt that was something I lagged, and I knew I could do better,” Little said. “So I just told myself, be aggressive getting to the glass and go hard.”
The 6-6, 220-pound Little grabbed seven rebounds, including five offensive rebounds and helped UNC (2-0) win on Friday night against Elon 116-67. He played in 20 minutes on Friday, but the game was far out of reach early in the second half.
Little’s offensive rebounds helped extend possessions and contributed to UNC’s 18-point halftime lead, despite Elon’s hot shooting. He was a big reason the Tar Heels’ rebounded 70 percent of their misses in the first half.
“I really thought he had more,” Williams said. “I told our staff in front of the whole team he had the most offensive rebounds in the first half...He wants to play more and that’s the best way to do it, just to get to that board and make things happen. He’s coming quickly.”
Little, who came off the bench, finished Friday’s game with 21 points, which was tied for the team lead with graduate forward Cam Johnson. Little was 9-for-13 from the floor and 2-for-3 from behind the 3-point line.
He showed off his athleticism on Friday with a few breakaway highlight reel dunks.
Little said his motivation this season is to help the team win and his desire is to win a national championship at UNC.
“I’m thinking if we’re playing a really good team, I’ve got to do my part and rebound better and get to the glass,” Little said.
Little’s reaction to FBI documents
Friday was the second time Little was available to talk to the media. But it was first time he addressed the FBI documents, which described a plan to get him and other top recruits to commit to Adidas-sponsored universities in exchange for money.
In September 2017, the FBI released documents that showed Jonathan Brad Augustine, Little’s former AAU coach, was one of several people involved in a scheme to pay the families of top prospects in exchange for their commitment to certain Adidas-sponsored universities.
The documents described a recruit that fit Little’s profile, but never described he or his family as taking part in the scheme. The family denied they were involved.
Little said on Friday that he was confused when he read the FBI’s documents.
“Because I didn’t do anything, so it was like what are they talking about,” Little said. “I remember I was in class and coach called me in and said ‘Nas, you seen this?’ I was reading it and I was just like, I have no idea what they are talking about. So it was just kind of confusing to me.”
It was later revealed that Augustine, the alleged facilitator of the deal, told federal investigators that he wanted to keep the money for himself.
Little said it was tough go through at first, but he knew his family did not do anything wrong.
In October at ACC Media Day, Williams said he never had any hesitation about playing Little.
“Nassir’s family, his mom and his dad, and Nassir, I believed what they said,” Williams said then. “I strongly believed what they said.”