Sylvia Hatchell says her UNC basketball team might be a lot better than people expect.
But it may not be really evident until February and March.
With the loss of last season’s senior stalwarts Jessica Breland and guards Italee Lucas and Cetera DeGraffenreid, the Tar Heels – who finished 28-9 last season and were runners-up in the ACC Tournament – might be calling it a rebuilding year.
But there is an awful lot of depth coming back. The Tar Heels return two primary starters in 6-5 senior post Chay Shegog (8.9, 4.9 rebs.) and 6-0 junior wing Krista Gross (4.2, 4.2) plus 6-1 junior rebounding machine Laura Broomfield (8.0, 7.8) and 5-5 guard She’la White (5.5, 1.7 assts.)
The Tar Heels are ranked No. 20 in the AP’s preseason poll and No. 19 in the coaches’ poll.
“I like our team,” Coach Hatchell said Wednesday in the Tar Heels’ media day at Carmichael Arena. “They’re young, energetic and athletic. We’re a better 3-point shooting team than we were last year. Overall I think we’re going to be better than we were last year. Maybe not right now, but we have the potential to be better. Chay looks really good. I told her she’s the best big-girl perimeter player in the country. Laura is going to have a great year. Those two inside are going to be really solid.”
Shannon Smith, a 5-7 redshirt freshman, along with four true freshmen – 5-9 guard Brittany Rountree, 6-2 forward Whitney Adams, 6-0 guard Megan Buckland and 5-10 guard Danielle Butts – all played on state championship teams as high school seniors.
Waltiea Rolle, a 6-6 sophomore post, will miss the first part of the season for delivery of her child while junior guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt is injured and may redshirt.
“I have to be more assertive and more in an attacking mode this season than I have been in the past,” Shegog said. “I’ve played with Jessica and Waltiea, so I wasn’t the only big player. My main thing is just to get in attack mode. Over the summer I studied a whole lot of film on Erlana (Larkins) and LaToya (Pringle) and Camille (Little), who are the most recent great post players who have been through here. It’s really a mental thing. I’ve just got to get out of old habits. I’ve got to learn to be able to play 35-plus minutes.”
The Tar Heels will host Hatchell’s alma mater Carson-Newman in a Nov. 9 exhibition, then tip off the regular season on Nov. 12 against Gardner-Webb.