UNC Basketball: What We Learned from Tar Heels' 2014 Bahamas Exhibition Trip

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2014

Sophomore Isaiah Hicks was the star of North Carolina's exhibition trip to the Bahamas.
Sophomore Isaiah Hicks was the star of North Carolina's exhibition trip to the Bahamas.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

North Carolina's weekend trip to the Bahamas featured sightseeing, ice bucket challenges and water slides. Oh, and a pair of basketball games that provided two very different results.

The Tar Heels split their two exhibition games, losing 84-83 to the Providence Storm on Friday before rolling past the Bahamas All-Stars 109-52 on Saturday.

The short road trip came just before UNC's fall semester began, and the goal of the journey was more to work on bonding and team chemistry than results. Even still, it's likely coach Roy Williams wasn't particularly pleased to see his team blow an eight-point lead with three minutes left and then see Providence's Ernest Saunders hit a three-pointer with 18 seconds left for the game-winner.

"We made lots of mistakes, went 3-for-25 from three and missed free throws," Williams told GoHeels.com. Carolina made just eight of 20 foul shots, with Theo Pinson missing both attempts with 32 seconds left and the Heels up by two.

There were no such shortcomings against the Bahamas All-Stars, as UNC shot 61 percent and never looked back after taking a 32-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The overall results were meaningless, but not so the individual performances some of Carolina's newcomers and younger players put up. One of the biggest stars of the weekend was sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks, who had 19 points against the Bahamas All-Stars after scoring 13 against Providence. For the two games, he made 14 of 23 shots and was UNC's most impressive player, according to Inside Carolina's Greg Barnes.

"Now that he’s returned to his natural position at the 4, along with a year of college ball experience at his disposal, Hicks appears set to provide significant contributions for a UNC squad expected to be ranked top-10 nationally in the preseason polls," Barnes wrote.

The 6'8", 220-pound Hicks was used sparingly during the 2013-14 season as a freshman, averaging just 1.2 points and 1.0 rebounds in 7.3 minutes per game. He appeared in all but one contest, but he never played more than 17 minutes or scored more than seven points in a single game as he spent most of his time at the 3.

Hicks still has a battle for playing time with Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and even Desmond Hubert in the frontcourt, but with Carolina so loaded on the wing thanks to the arrival of Pinson and Justin Jackson, he can contribute more from his natural position. Hicks benefited from an ankle injury to Johnson, who played only seven minutes in each game in the Bahamas, but his play showed he can be a valuable sub if another forward gets hurt or gets into foul trouble.

Outside of the games, the trip did wonders for team-building. The school posted photos of the Tar Heels taking on the "Leap of Faith" water slide at the Atlantis Resort on its website, while Williams and his staff used the tropical setting as a backdrop for their participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Now that summer break is over, and school is resuming, Carolina will have limited basketball activity until early October when preseason practice begins. Action begins in earnest on Oct. 3 with the annual "Late Night with Roy" event.


Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.