Students at Chapel Hill spent their autumn afternoons in Carmichael Auditorium where the basketball team practiced. The place is only three years old, and all 8,500 Carolina-blue seats are sold out for the season. Carmichael was designed with a stage and supposedly is a center for all campus activities, but since student protest has deteriorated to scorning the amount of ice in the Pepsi "dranks" at the Y-Court and since the football team has taken on the look of a mashed potato, all attention has been focused on basketball.
The Tar Heels reached the NCAA round of four last season and are likely to be there again, so their student followers came early to practices. With the campus roadways approaching the nightmare of a Bangkok rush hour, they'll have to be early to make all the games, too.
Perhaps as a reward for their fine season last year, all of the Tar Heels dress in front of new white individual lockers with three-by-four-foot Caprolan carpets in front of them. Each carpet spoils the name of its owner in eight-inch white letters on a Carolina-blue background. The most important carpet is decorated with the name Miller. That's Larry Miller, 200% muscle waiting to be juiced up by a close score. Miller tends to excite people in the stands and run over those on the floor. He averaged 22 points and nine rebounds last season, and three other starters arc back with him, plus three good and speedy sophomores. One of the newcomers is 6'5" Charlie Scott, the future All-America who has the burden of replacing Bob Lewis—a large order—on Carolina's starting club. Though he won't shoot as well as Lewis, he can do more things as he swings, either rebounding as a cornerman or ball handling and directing the attack from backcourt. Right now Scott is a young bull who tears up the china shop every so often with an errant pass, but he will age.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays the students stayed a little longer at practice because 6'10" Center Rusty Clark had organic chemistry lab those days and missed the first hour. Before he arrived the students watched Miller slip on a 25-pound jacket and lead a group in jumping rope—50 with the left foot, 50 with the right and 150 flat out. They enthused to a quick-break rehearsal that simulated game conditions. Gerald Tuttle, who played in 30 games as a sophomore, fed an underhand pass to Miller, who scored with a back-to-the-basket left-handed spin shot. The students clapped. Bill Bunting, 6'8", who fills in at Clark's pivot spot on lab days and in many games, too, took another Tuttle pass and scored from 18 feet. More claps. Dick Grubar, the 6'3" guard, gave Miller a fast-break pass, but the defense was already there, so Larry went to his toes for a left-handed flip that was wide. But he was under there quickly, to tap in the rebound—routine for him. The students cheered.
This is more of a running game than the control offense that Coach Dean Smith used for a 26-6 record last season. "I'm not a system man," says Smith. "I go with what gives us the best advantage. We used the four-corner offense last year to protect leads and make it a shorter game. Also, it's tough for anybody to play Miller one-on-one. By tournament time we were going with our attack to Clark, as he got better. This year we're going to run. We have more depth and more speed and we'll use pressure and try to lengthen the game."
Nobody gets a free pass in this conference, however. Teams play round robin: big court, small court, and, as visiting coaches classify South Carolina and Clemson, no court. "We don't have to go to South Carolina this season," chirps Smith. He lost there a year ago, but the game this time will be at neutral Charlotte. It would be a good one anywhere. Frank McGuire has four starters back who have played together for three seasons. Gary Gregor, 6'8", is the strongest man in the league and is now 15 pounds trimmer, while Skip Harlicka and Jack Thompson make up an excellent backcourt. Duke is minus Bob Verga, who scored and provided direction, but the Blue Devils have a pro-size forecourt led by 6'7" Mike Lewis, and 6'8" Warren Chapman returns in January. North Carolina State gets back Eddie Biedenbach, an excitingly quick 6'2" guard who missed all of last season with a back injury.
Most of the favored Tar Heels seem to have grown in the off season, observing Smith's instructions to "build your body, make it tough and be ready for 40 running minutes." But Miller, for one, doesn't believe he'll be playing that much. "I won't see many 40-minute games unless they're close," says Larry. "We're tall, fast and strong, and we've got 10 guys who will play a lot." A key substitute is 6'5" junior Joe Brown, a fast and powerful forward. The Tar Heels have an early-season run that includes VPI, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Princeton. If they get through that schedule unscathed, they may demand that those carpets be turned in for wall-to-wall jobs.