There will be no live broadcasts on a major sports channel, no fancy, special uniforms and certainly not much fanfare outside of local circles. But even still, North Carolina's brief upcoming trip to the Bahamas for some exhibition basketball games is no less important than that of any other college team.
The Tar Heels returned to practice this week in preparation for two games on Friday and Saturday in Nassau, Bahamas. They will face the Providence Storm in the opening game, then wrap things up a day later against the Bahamas All-Stars, with both games tipping at 5 p.m. ET at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
There's no television, radio or Internet broadcast of the games—unlike with Kentucky, whose in-progress six-game sojourn through the Bahamas is being shown on ESPNU and the new SEC Network—but Carolina's media relations folks will provide updates through Twitter and live stats on the team's website.
This will be the third time since 2005 that UNC will be playing summer exhibition games in the Bahamas, but unlike those past trips this one has the added benefit of serving as a scouting expedition. The Heels are set to play in the star-studded Battle 4 Atlantis in late November, opening Nov. 26 against Butler and then meeting either Oklahoma or UCLA on Nov. 27.
But beyond giving his players a chance to see what the backdrop will be like, the exhibition games will provide the first real opportunity to see how UNC's three blue-chip freshmen integrate into the system.
Guard Joel Berry and forwards Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson have been practicing and working out with the veterans since enrolling earlier this summer, but there's only so much you can learn from drills and intrasquad scrimmages.
Junior guard Marcus Paige has had nothing but praise for his new teammates, according to Scout.com's Sherrell McMillan:
Our freshmen are adjusting well, quicker than we did as freshmen, so it’s good to see. They just have such advanced basketball IQs . They can fit in seamlessly. I think that’s going to help them in their transition period at the beginning of the year. They bring a competitive edge to the team and all three of them are really different.
In 2010, the last time Carolina played in the Bahamas, the team was integrating another strong trio of freshmen (guards Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall and forward Harrison Barnes) into the rotation. Before that it was a 2005 summer visit, with Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough among the newcomers.
While the results of the games were meaningless, coach Roy Williams told GoHeels.com's Adam Lucas that the biggest benefit was in the chemistry-building department. "The kids were able to spend some time together," Williams said. "They got to room with different people than they room with at home, and the older guys were able to take care of the freshmen and give them some advice."
But don't think what happens on the court won't have some importance. With Carolina looking to replace shooter Leslie McDonald and post presence James Michael McAdoo in the starting lineup, the Bahamas games will provide a chance to see which fivesomes will work best together.
Jackson and Pinson will be given a chance to show their stuff on the wing, while Berry could play alongside Paige or in place of him depending on the situation.
The games will also be the first chance to see a slimmed-down Kennedy Meeks, who as a freshman showed up at school weighing more than 300 pounds and played last season at around 290. He's reportedly down to the 270 range as he looks to become Carolina's primary enforcer on the blocks.
Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.
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