CHAPEL HILL, NC — Pete Nance will make one of his many North Carolina basketball and Smith Center debuts on Friday night when the Tar Heels take on Johnson C. Smith in the final tune-up before the much anticipated 2022-23 season. ‘Live Action’ is in the rearview, the exhibition game is Friday, and the start of the season is less than two weeks away.
Nance’s ability and fit will be a focus for UNC fans and media alike as the only new starter in the Tar Heels’ lineup. By all accounts, Nance’s assimilation has been seamless. The only thing that surprised head coach Hubert Davis about Nance is the fact that he is still in college, something Davis has said repeatedly during the offseason and said yet again on Thursday.
“From a basketball standpoint, I haven’t been surprised at all. I mean he’s an accomplished player. He had an unbelievable career at Northwestern for four years,” Davis said. “I’m am surprised he’s with us and that he’s not in the NBA. You know, where basketball is at right now with mobile bigs that are super skilled and can do a number of things on both ends of the floor, he fits the type perfectly. I mean, he’s 6-11, he can guard one through five. When he rebounds the basketball, he brings the ball up the floor. From an offensive standpoint, he can score on a post, attack the offensive glass. an unbelievable passer and screener. And he shot 45 percent from three last year at Northwestern, so he can shoot the ball from outside.”
Nance led Northwestern in scoring (14.6 points) and rebounding (6.5 rebounds) last season, shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three.
Both Nance and his head coach have marveled about how easy the transition was for Nance from Northwestern transfer to UNC teammate and expected starter on a roster full of veterans with National Championship aspirations.
“They’ve made it a real easy transition on me,” Nance said. “It’s a really good team. And just knowing how to fit into that, and being an older player has really helped me a lot, but also following the lead of these guys who did this last year.”
Davis compared it to Brady Manek last season. It was a natural fit that made sense both from a basketball and off-the-court standpoint.
“This is the only way that it reminds me of Brady — he’s only been here three and a half months and it feels like he’s been here for four years,” Davis said. “The relationships that he has with the coaches and his teammates. It’s been seamless, it really has. And so to think that four months ago, I never had talked to or met Pete Nance and now I can’t imagine him never being here or I never coaching him or him not being a part of my life.
With transfers, there is an unknown and a bit of a risk with team chemistry. Manek had never visited UNC. Davis talked to him on a Tuesday and he committed on a Friday. It was quick and it just worked. Nance’s situation developed in a similar fashion. A fast recruitment and a game of chance from both parties.
“I knew Pete the (player), but I didn’t know the person. I mean, obviously, we had conversations and he came on a visit and we were able to spend time together, but you just never know. And it hasn ‘t been good — it’s been unbelievably great,” Davis said.
From a basketball standpoint, Nance wants to do whatever this team needs him to do. His versatility will allow for that. He is not a replacement for Manek, but rather a multi-tooled big man, who can score from outside, be a playmaker, rebound, and defend.
“I think I just am gonna try to be a real versatile player,” Nance said on Thursday. “I know I’m coming into a really good team with some really, really talented players and really good guys. So I think just coming in and figuring out where I fit in, whether that is floor spacing, or getting rebounds, or guarding one through five. Just trying to be versatile and do whatever this team needs. And just trying to help where I can. I’m not a fifth-year guy where I’m coming in and trying to get my own. here to help this team win in whatever ways I’m needed.”
Nance has a selfless approach to his role with this team, which already has an established identity built on a deep NCAA Tournament run. Nance wants to enhance what this team can be and get them “over the hump.”
Over the hump would be to win a National Championship.
“I genuinely feel this way — whatever I am needed to do during a game I will try and do it,” Nance added. “If we need to defend. If we need to facilitate more. If we’re in a dry scoring spell. I can be that guy. Just trying to be whatever this team needs to get over the hump is what I’m here for because I love these guys and I want to — along with everybody — do great things here.”