By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — One of the big contrasts between Roy Williams and Hubert Davis was how they handled their rotations.
Williams would always play lots of players early in the season and trim his rotation as Carolina got into the bulk of the ACC season. In his first season as head coach, Davis didn’t do that, and stuck to a tight rotation most of the season.
Don’t mistake how Davis allocated playing time during his first season as his preference, though. And he says that’s not his decision.
“I’m not going to give people playing time. I’m going to give everyone an opportunity, 100%,” Davis said. “Every day at practice you have an opportunity to play; plain and simple, period, the end. But the players will determine the rotation. So, when we get into practice, whatever the rotation is, that’s what has been determined by the guys out there on the floor.”
Davis says Wednesday that he’d love to play a larger rotation. But even with four starters returning, he has no plan to go with another “iron five” unless the reserves fail to prove they should play.
He says he saw the downside of a tight rotation in the second half of the national championship game against Kansas when he thought, for the first time all season, that his starters looked tired. He remembers watching R.J. Davis work his calf muscles a lot during a second-half time out.
“Personally, I don’t like playing five,” Coach Davis said. “I don’t want to play five; I want to have a bigger rotation.”
He says that the players will determine that and not him.
“The five that I played a lot last year, especially towards the end of the year, they determined it by their play in practice every day and it was confirmed by their play in the game,” Davis said. “We have 12 on the team. If all 12 practice really well and confirm the way that they played in practice in the games, I’ll play them in the rotation as well. So, I don’t go predetermining. The players determine what the rotation is and how much time that they get.”
The good news of the offseason is that Armando Bacot, a key member of last year’s “iron five” is progressing well in rehabbing the right ankle that he injured during the Final Four. Bacot was oddly specific in telling Davis on Tuesday that his ankle was “77%” recovered.
Davis was curious about that “self-diagnosis” but happy that he is progressing and said it’s getting a lot better. Davis dealt with ankle sprains during his playing career and says that it usually takes five months or so to fully recover.
“Every day, he’s playing pickup and doing individual workouts,” Davis said. “He’s continuing to get better and doing all the things.”
One player who confirmed in the national championship game that he deserves a spot in the rotation was Puff Johnson, who has been able to work out for the entire offseason for the first time since he arrived in Chapel Hill.
“He can be out there on the floor. He can do individual workouts and work on different things. Not from a rehab standpoint,” Davis said of Johnson, who has dealt with foot injuries. “Last summer was the first time in his entire career that he worked out healthy.
“And look at the year that he had,” Davis said. “So, it’s just a huge benefit for Puff finally being healthy and just being able to get out there on the floor. Let’s just get better. He’s going to build off the performance that he had in the national championship game. He’s going to continue to get better and better.”