As the second session of summer school wound down, Tar Heel players began to look forward to the brief respite provided between the end of second session and the start of the fall semester.
"We'll get a little bit of time at home," said Isaiah Hicks, "but then we have to be back to get ready for practice."
It was pointed out that coming back for practice meant going through four practices before taking a trip to the Bahamas.
"Not that bad, is it?" Hicks said with a grin.
The sophomore and his teammates will assemble at the Smith Center tonight for their first pre-Bahamas practice. They'll practice again on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, have another session on Thursday morning, and then leave for Nassau later that afternoon.
The Tar Heels have a 5 p.m. date on Friday with the Providence Storm (not the Providence Friars). The Storm was waxed by Ohio State over the weekend and was defeated more narrowly by Ole Miss. Carolina will be back at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium--the exhibition games will not be played at Atlantis, the site of November's return trip to the island for the Battle 4 Atlantis--on Saturday for a 5 p.m. game against the Bahamas All-Stars.
Two similar previous preseason trips have shown that the value lies much more in the opportunity for the team to spend some off-court time together than in the chance to play stalwart competition. In 2005, one of the opponents arrived and departed the gym in the back of a pickup truck and on that same trip, an opposing coach took a cell phone call during the game. On the next trip, in the summer of 2010, Roy Williams had to intervene to keep the opposing coach's toddler son from wandering onto the court during game action.
That's not why Williams will take the trip for the third time in his Tar Heel tenure. He expects much more of an intangible value than anything that will be measured on the stat sheet. In 2005, after all, a freshman class that included Tyler Hansbrough was able to begin to form the foundation of the chemistry that would eventually sustain one of the closest classes in Tar Heel history--and, perhaps not coincidentally, win a national championship.
"Chemistry was the biggest benefit," Roy Williams said after that trip. "The kids were able to spend some time together. 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."
Expect scores to be high, with very little defense played, and the international officiating to be occasionally perplexing and sometimes frustrating. Opponents attempted more than 50 free throws in both 2010 games.
Although no live stream will be available of this year's games, fans can get in-game updates via Twitter through @UNC_Basketball. Check back on GoHeels.com later this week for pre-Bahamas practice coverage.