A point guard must do two simple, but important things if he wants to play under North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
“Stay in front of the ball and don’t turn the sucker over, and you get to play more,” Williams said. “It’s pretty easy.”
Both point guards Coby White and Seventh Woods limited their turnovers on Friday night against Tennessee Tech (0-4), and helped the Tar Heels win 108-58. UNC had 29 assists on 41 made shots.
White, a 6-5, 185-pound freshman, finished with 11 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. Woods, a 6-2, 185-pound junior, had 7 points, 8 assists and 0 turnovers off the bench.
When asked what he liked from Seventh Woods, Williams said, “I’m pretty doggone pleased with our point guard position.”
He pointed to the two guards’ combined assists-to-turnover ratio, which was 12:2.
Taking care of the basketball has been a point of emphasis for the Tar Heels’ point guards, especially Woods.
As a sophomore, Woods played in 20 games, and averaged seven minutes per game. In those games, he had 20 assists and 12 turnovers. Woods said he was dealing with some injuries last season and had lost confidence.
This year, he is healthy. Through the first four games of his junior year, Woods already has 20 assists to only four turnovers.
“I would say my confidence, realizing that I am capable of making the right play,” Woods said of what’s changed this season. ”The biggest part for me is realizing that I am going to make turnovers and mistakes. I just have to move on as quickly as possible and focus on each play.”
“When I make a mistake, I know the mistake I made and learn from it instantly.”
For White, things are a little different. He hasn’t had that experience yet. As a freshman starter, he is learning on the fly, and trying to get adjusted to the college game.
White played his high school basketball at Greenfield School in Wilson, where he was dominant. He finished his high school career as the state’s all-time leading scorer with 3,573 points.
And now, as a college point guard, he’s learning how to run a proven offense that has won multiple national championships.
White said Woods challenges him in practice every day.
“He challenges me to do better,” White said. “We don’t really go against each other in practice a lot, but just seeing him, how hard he plays, and how good he runs the offense, I’m just trying to compete with him.”
The strong play of the two points guards has helped No. 7 UNC (4-0) get out to fast starts and excel in the break. The Tar Heels had 29 fast break points on Friday, which was the more than any game in the last three seasons.
“I think we can build off that,” Woods said. “We can even play faster. Our second half slowed up a bit. That can help us realize how fast we can be on the break.”
They also forced 22 turnovers, 12 in the first half, which led to fast break opportunities.
Because of those opportunities, many players benefited. Six players finished in double-figure scoring. Senior forward Luke Maye led the Tar Heels with 15 points, sophomore forward Sterling Manley had 13 points, senior guard Kenny Williams had 10 points, and so did freshman wing Nassir Little, and graduate wing Cam Johnson.
The Tar Heels have one more game — against St. Francis (Pa.) on Monday — to fine tune those skills before its heads to the West Coast on Thanksgiving to play in the Las Vegas Invitational. It will first play Texas on Nov. 22, before playing either No. 11 Michigan State or No. 20 UCLA on Nov. 23.
Maye said the team isn’t quite where it wants to be yet.
“We have a lot of guys that can play a lot of better, including myself,” Maye said, ”and trying to continue to grow as a team and as one unit is going to be pretty important going down the stretch.”