Carolina pulls curtain up on 2008-2009 season
Posted October 25, 2008
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Though neither has a “Y” chromosome, Nikki Jones and Elizabeth Edmonds took the floor with North Carolina’s men’s basketball team Friday night at the Dean E. Smith Center.
That’s because Jones and Edmonds co-captain UNC’s dance team. The lone seniors on the squad, they played a major role in putting on this year’s Late Night with Roy events – where the women’s and men’s basketball teams make their first appearance of the season in front of fans.
Late Night always features scrimmages, skits, videos, and – in Jones and Edmonds’ domain – dances. “We make up all the dances for the whole thing,” Jones said. “And we don’t have a life.”
The dance team began preparing for the evening with the men’s team more than three weeks ago. “We put a lot of time into it – a lot more than people think,” Jones said. “Other than that, it’s so fun just dancing and getting the boys to show their crazy sides.”
Both Jones and Edmonds appeared regularly on the court during the Late Night shenanigans, dancing with the players and amusing the fans.
By far, the highlights of the night were the men’s team’s skits and videos featuring Bobby Frasor role-playing Coach Roy Williams. The hobbled Marcus Ginyard rolled around in a wheelchair during the performances, making him this year’s comical gimp (last year it was Frasor).
And the men’s scrimmage gave the fans their first glimpse of the 2008-2009 Tar Heels, the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and the bookies’ overwhelming favorite to win the NCAA National Championship. UNC’s heralded freshman class, including big-time recruits Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis and Larry Drew, impressed.
Zeller did “the worm” during one skit. And Williams, with dark sunglasses on his face and a Hawaiian lei around his neck, danced amidst a circle of players. (Also not typos).
Before the festivities, the UNC volleyball team defeated Clemson in the Smith Center, sweeping the best-of-five match in three games: 25-22, 25-19, 25-21.
Before the women’s team came out, a video aired where Hansbrough, expecting an interview from someone working with Carolina Athletics, was surprised when Bobby Frasor sat down in the interviewer’s chair. Frasor asked Hansbrough to compare himself to Florida’s Tim Tebow, then brought up the issue of he and Hansbrough jumping off the SAE balcony and into a swimming pool in the spring.
Then, Frasor layed down a beat while Hansbrough freestyle rapped. (That is not a typo.)
At 7 p.m., ESPN’s Stuart Scott, who once again returned as Master of Ceremonies, officially kicked off Late Night. He introduced the women’s team to raucous cheers from the crowd. The girls exited the tunnel one-by-one, each performing an obviously rehearsed entrance as small fireworks shot out from behind both baskets.
The women’s team put on one dance skit: “America’s Next Top Hatchel.” Parodying the hit show “America’s Next Top Model,” the players all donned blonde wigs and mono-colored blazers, a la their coach, Sylvia Hatchel, and strutted down an imaginary catwalk onto the court and then dancing to “Brick House” with the male cheerleaders.
Afterward, the women’s team Blue/White scrimmage became a low-scoring affair, with Cetera DeGraffenreid and Italee Lucas leading the Blue team to a 15-4 victory. And Alex Miller, who suffered a season-ending injury early last year, returned to the court for the Tar Heels.
Then, next year’s men’s recruiting class strolled out, and Carolina Fever members presented them with makeshift Tar Heel jerseys bearing their last names.
At 7:45, Scott introduced the men’s team by class. When he said Hansbrough’s name, the Smith Center shook from the fans’ decibel level.
The first men’s skit of the night featured Ginyard on crutches and sporting a blue wig and a hula skirt. Then Tar Heel alumnus David Noel reprised his role as “Divine Noel” – in a pink wig – and brought Ginyard his wheelchair.
For much of the show, Edmonds, Jones and the rest of the dance team led the players in choreographed routines to such songs as The Beach Boys’ “Be True to Your School” and Kanye West’s “The New Workout Plan.”
As Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “Hello Detroit” played, the Tar Heels – clad in Carolina blue suits – slow-danced with the dance team. The song alluded to the Heels’ mission: winning the title in Detroit, MI.
For that number, and a couple others, Edmonds danced with Danny Green. “Danny is awesome,” Edmonds said. “I picked him last year, just because he’s such a good dancer … He’s a very, very helpful person. He wants everything to go along so smoothly, and he’s just a sweetheart. You can’t help but love him.” Jones reiterated, “And he’s a great dancer.”
For her part, Jones paired up with Hansbrough, who, to say the least, falls short of Green’s dancing prowess – even though Hansbrough brings his game-time work ethic to the Late Night practices, Jones said: “The best part about him is that he tries so hard. He really wants to get it, he’s really focused, like ‘Do it again, show me again,’ but he’s so awkward, so awkward. Socially and dance-move-wise, the whole thing.”
When Hansbrough entered a dancing circle toward the end of the show and shimmied, fans saw that awkwardness on full display.
One of the funniest dances involved Edmonds and Jones leading the seniors (san Ginyard) to Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” – the players were jean shorts (a.k.a. “jorts”), white tank tops and American flag bandanas. Someday, the pictures from this skit might make them laugh about their glory days.
But Frasor stole the show – his portrayal of Williams centered around comments the coach made about the dangers presented by the slippery NCAA logo which appears on many colleges’ courts. In the video segments, Frasor (as Williams) did things the coach normally would, then slipped on an NCAA logo that mysteriously appeared under him.
“Late Night’s always fun. You get to put on a show for the fans. You get to be something you don’t normally do – you get to step out of that stereotypical ‘athlete’ role and be an actor, be a dancer, put on skits,” Frasor said.
After the show, UNC scrimmaged for 20 minutes. The Blue team started Frasor, Drew, Green, Thompson and Davis, while the White team started Ty Lawson, Will Graves, Wayne Ellington, Zeller and Hansbrough. The play started out sloppy and physical but improved, and the White squad rallied from an early deficit to win, 48-45. Hansbrough led the White group with 22 points, while Green led all scorers with 23 for the Blue unit.
As for the young guys, both Zeller and Davis looked solid. Frasor said of the pair: “Once they get a grasp of what Coach Williams wants defensively, and all of our principles, I think they’re going to be a big asset to our team.”
Frasor called Davis a “mini- B. Wright,” comparing his length and style of play to Frasor’s former teammate and current NBA player Brandan Wright. And Frasor said that Zeller – who scored a number of nice buckets on offense – runs the court extremely well. “In practice, he gets out, and he can beat some of the guards down the floor. And that’s an amazing quality for a seven-footer to have.”
Both Frasor and Green discussed the advantages of practicing against top competition. “We won’t face guys much better than (those) who we face every day in practice,” Green said.
And Green put things into perspective as his senior class prepares for a season in which his team has little to prove before March, when it has everything to prove. “I think guys are a lot more focused this year than they were last year. Not that we weren’t focused last year, but this is our last time doing this,” he said. “Hopefully we can be the best team that we can potentially be at the end of the year in March.”