"Midnight with the Heels" opens season

Stuart Scott

CHAPEL HILL, NC—The University of North Carolina kicked of the beginning of the 2001-2002 basketball season with an intra-squad scrimmage in front of an estimated crowd of 9,700 in venerable Carmichael Auditorium.

The White team defeated the Blue team by a score of 34-28 in 15 minutes of action as the grand finale of a night full of events. There were shooting contests, four-on-four's, and even dancing by "The Blues Brothers." ESPN personality and UNC alum, Stuart Scott acted as M.C. of all the events, culminating with the scrimmage, even participating in the Students vs Coaches scrimmage—won by the coaches 18-15 with a little help from the time keeper.

"They're known for tipping things to make sure they win," remarked senior Kris Lang with a wink. "That's all I'm going to say."

Lang captained the Blue team, while fellow senior Jason Capel captained the victorious White team. There was lots of talking on the court, but it was all in fun and part of the spirit of the evening.

"It's my last year, and today I just want to enjoy it," explained Lang after the festivities. "I went out there to have a good time. I didn't take anything personally. It was a good time.

"It's a little different when you have a bunch of people [watching]. Your adrenalin gets going, and it's harder to judge a shot. You just shoot too hard or too short, but it was a good time."

It was the first look at this year's edition of the Tar Heels but it was very brief. In a sloppy 15 minutes of action, Kris Lang and Jason Capel look like the go-to guys, but after that who plays where is anybody's guess.

Neil Fingleton impressed with a nice jump hook and made himself a presence on the defensive end of the court.

The point guard slot looks wide open at present with Holmes, Boone, Morrison, and Scott all running a dead heat.

The three freshmen all displayed athleticism but also made "freshmen mistakes," taking a few bad shots and not displaying fundamentals on the defensive end of the court.

While the fans were excited to see the team for the first time, it was also the coaches' first look at the team together.

"The only thing we could do up to this time was four-man workouts," explained head coach Matt Doherty. "We couldn't work out with more than four guys. This is the first time I've seen them together as a team.

"It was just a fun pick-up game. They've got to get it out of their system. Tomorrow starts the real thing. It was fun to see them running up and down, but the ball was flying all over the place—bad shots. It was a glorified pick-up game. Tomorrow we start for real."

The surprise of the night: this might not be the entire team. Earlier in the week quarterback Ronald Curry admitted that he's considering joining the basketball team after football season, and on this night, Matt Doherty read a note from Julius Peppers to the fans in which Peppers wrote "…our paths may cross again."

"I don't think Pep is going to tease you," said Matt Doherty. "He's thinking about playing basketball, [and I'm] pretty excited."

Overall, it was a night that the players, coaches, and fans all enjoyed. Saturday at 10:30 a.m. it gets serious—practice starts for real.

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