North Carolina

UNC’s Late Night Blue-and-White dances into overtime

Late Night With Roy Williams

Video: Fans flocks to the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the annual Late Night with Roy Williams kickoff to the 2016-17 basketball season for the Tar Heels.
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Video: Fans flocks to the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the annual Late Night with Roy Williams kickoff to the 2016-17 basketball season for the Tar Heels.

Fans who gathered as early as 6 a.m. Friday morning outside the Smith Center to get a seat for North Carolina’s “Late Night With Roy” seemed to think UNC basketball’s 14th annual display of dancing and court skills was worth the wait.

About 20,000 people poured into the Smith Center for the free event. They roared with approval at their first sight of the returning lettermen from last year’s Final Four team, as well as first-year players Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson, Tony Bradley and Shea Rush.

“They looked good out there,” UNC junior Theo Pinson said of the freshmen. “They’re all good players, but playing out there in the Smith Center is a whole other level.”

Pinson nailed a late 3-pointer in Friday’s 20-minute, intrasquad Blue and White scrimmage to send it into overtime, then teammate Justin Jackson hit another trey 22 seconds into the 1-minute extra period to key a 40-37 win for the White team.

Jackson led the White team with 13 points, and Isaiah Hicks was 5-for-5 from the field to score 13 for the Blues.

In one of the night’s highlights, the 6-5 Robinson battled his way to a tie with 6-1 senior Nate Britt in a 3-point shooting contest. Britt won a shootout by draining all five of his shots from the top of the key.

In an effort to boost the intensity beyond the traditional Blue and White showcase, all elements of Late Night were scored, much like the way UNC coaches grade each player in practices.

Before the Blue and White scrimmage, the night took on a “Survivor” game show feel as the Blue and White teams competed against each other is a series of contests. Players zig-zagged around obstacles and shot baskets from various spots on the floor, all with head coach Roy Williams and his assistants looking on from the sideline.

And they danced. A lot, with the winners decided on the basis of applause.

Jesse Holley, a former UNC player and now Dallas radio personality, brought a talent-show-mixed-with-pep-rally vibe to the proceedings in his debut as emcee.

“Be loud, be proud, and be sure to make some noise,” Holley told the crowd, cuing them up like a studio audience.

One musical competition featured the Blues in a ska, Jamaican number against the White team’s funk update of a 1940s musical with sailors and waitresses. After the inevitable tie and a crunking dance-off, Holley declared Kennedy Meeks’ White squad the winner.

The UNC women’s team led off the night with some dancing and then ran through a brief scrimmage as fans continued to find their way to their seats.

Elliott Warnock: 919-829-8951, @ElliottWarnock

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