There’s another Tar Heel playing in Japan next season, Isaiah Hicks

Isaiah Hicks has been making a name for himself in South Korea after taking the K-League by storm for the past two seasons. Hicks will be hoping for more success after signing for Neo-Phoenix in the Japanese B-League, the top-tier in Japan.

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Isaiah will be seeing some familiar faces in Japan next season, as there have been many Tar Heels making the beautiful country their home as of late. James Michael McAdoo plays for Hitachi Sun Rockers in Tokyo, Brice Johnson plays for Toyama Grouses and Justin Knox most recently played for Hicks’ new team, Neo-Phoenix. Jawad Williams was playing in the second-tier of Japanese basketball before retiring this summer.

The 2017 NCAA Champion has been playing in South Korea for the past two seasons and has finished in the Top 10 scorers in the league for both seasons. He averaged 17.9 PPG this past season and led his team in PPG, BPG and FG%.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGBPG
AVTODAR SARATOV (RUSSIA)2019/2028.312.866.712.0
SEOUL SAMSUNG THUNDERS (SOUTH KOREA)2020/2124.817.287.351.46
SEOUL SAMSUNG THUNDERS (SOUTH KOREA)2021/2224.717.97.51.0
Statistics are up to date as of July 28th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Hicks suffered with injury last season and was out of action for three months, but he did return and play the remaining games of the season.

Seoul Samsung Thunders missed their star player and ended the season in last place in the K-League.

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Adam Lucas – UNC 2022/23 Basketball Preview and Stories from Chapel Hill

Adam Lucas, co-host of Carolina Insider and writer for Go Heels joined The Tar Heel Show Podcast to talk about the UNC Basketball practices, stories from Coach Smith and Coach Williams and lets us know his all-time starting five for the Tar Heels.

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  • Adam remembers when Coach Smith was standing on a chair in his house and reaching for a trophy from a top shelf.
  • Adam shares the competition he had with Coach Williams on a very memorable day for Coach.
  • Adam answers his Top 3 UNC Point Guards and All-Time Starting 5.
  • Adam talks about what he has seen at the current UNC Basketball practices this summer.

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Dontrez Styles signs new NIL partnership

Dontrez Styles has signed a new NIL partnership with Salvio’s Pizza in Cary, North Carolina. Following in the footsteps of Brady Manek and Justin McKoy.

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Salvio’s Pizza have said they will be naming a pizza after their newest athlete to be partnered with the pizzeria in Cary, as well as supplying meal prep. Tar Heel International spoke with Salvio’s Pizza about the new partnership.

“We’re working on the pizza now! We’ll see how his pizza making skills are.”

Salvio’s Pizza on the future Dontrez Styles Pizza

Last season, Brady Manek and Justin McKoy both partnered with Salvio’s Pizza with many guest appearances at the restaurant throughout the season.

Salvio’s Pizza will supply Dontrez Styles and Justin McKoy with a high-protein meal prep to help them throughout the season, don’t worry… they make sure it’s healthy.

“We setup meet and greets for the fans. All of the guys have been great and the people love them. We have a special athlete menu for high protein, complex carbs made with healthy fats that we meal prep… we don’t want the coaches mad at us.”

Salvio’s Pizza on what the partnership with Dontrez Styles and Justin McKoy includes.

Dontrez Styles averaged 6.6 MPG in his first season as a Tar Heel, with a highlight for most fans was his game-changing three-pointer in the NCAA Tournament against #1 Baylor. It’s an exciting season ahead for the UNC Men’s Basketball Team and we hope to see Trez play a big part in that.

Be sure to go check out Salvio’s Pizza at 2428 Cary Parkway, Cary, NC, they’re open Monday to Sunday.

Justin McKoy recently joined The Tar Heel Show to talk about his first season as a Tar Heel.

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Christian Keeling signs to play professionally in Finland

Christian Keeling is making his way across Europe since entering professional basketball. Keeling first signed for Glasgow Rocks in Scotland, followed by most recently for BC Rustavi in Georgia and his next chapter will be in Finland for Kataja Basket.

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Keeling is a scoring guard and he showed this in his time at Charleston Southern averaging 17.9 PPG through his first three years in South Carolina. Therefore, in his first season as a professional player, it was no surprise when Keeling was one of the top scorers in the British Basketball League playing for the Glasgow Rocks. Keeling led his team in PPG, APG and MPG. Keeling was in the Top 5 for PPG in the British Basketball League.

He travelled from ‘Georgia to Georgia’ for the 2021/22 season signing for BC Rustavi, one of the most decorated teams in Georgian Basketball. Keeling averaged 16.2 PPG in 22 games for BC Rustavi and finished with a 9-11 record.

Keeling’s next move will be for Kataja Basket in the Korisliiga in Finland, where his former teammate and fellow graduate transfer Justin Pierce has been playing for the past two seasons.

“I definitely talked to Justin, he’s been there for two years. It’s exciting and I’m ready to work!”

Christian Keeling speaking to Tar Heel International about his move to Finland.

Keeling will also be playing in the FIBA Europe Cup this season, the highest level knockout competition he has played in professionally.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGRPG
GLASGOW ROCKS (SCOTLAND)2020/2134.117.22.895.1
BC RUSTAVI (GEORGIA)2021/2233.616.23.55.8
Statistics are up to date as of July 21st (source: basketball.realgm.com and proballers.com)

Tar Heel International will be keeping you up-to-date with how Christian is doing in Finland over the next season.

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Marcus Paige signs to play professional basketball in Spain

The Liga ACB is known around the world to be the second best basketball league, after the NBA. Now, Marcus Paige will be lacing up against some of the best players to play for Monbus Obradoiro in Spain.

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Marcus Paige is coming off a good season for Orleans Loiret in France after a few years with distinguished European team, KK Partizan.

Marcus averaged 9.93 PPG in 29.9 MPG including 42% from behind the arc last season in France. Orleans Loiret finished with a 12-22 record.

There were challenges, as Marcus was sidelined for quite some time with a separated shoulder, but Marcus returned to finish the season strong.

Monbus Obradoiro finished last season with a 12-22 record and Paige will be hoping to be that spark for the Spanish side as he was so many times in Chapel Hill.

“I’ve wanted to play in the ACB for a while, so it should be fun.”

Marcus Paige speaking to Tar Heel International

In the state of North Carolina, Marcus Paige is a household name. From 2012-2016 Paige brought Tar Heel fans memories that will last a lifetime. Since graduating from Chapel Hill, Paige played 5 NBA games with the Charlotte Hornets and spent some time in the G-League before heading to Europe to play professionally.

The Liga ACB is notably known for being one of the best leagues in the world and many Tar Heels have played there, most recently Luke Maye and Deon Thompson.

It is likely we will see a Marcus Paige vs Luke Maye match-up yet again, after both players battled each other two seasons ago in the Euro Cup.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGSPG
PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)2018/1924.210.53.721.1
PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)2019/2022.39.931.880.79
PARTIZAN BELGRADE (SERBIA)2020/2126.29.22.40.9
ORLEANS LOIRET (FRANCE)2021/2229.99.933.371.07
Statistics are up to date as of July 18th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Tar Heel International is excited to be covering Marcus’s next chapter in Spain with updates throughout the coming season.

Marcus joined The Tar Heel Show this past season, to talk about his time overseas and his stories from Chapel Hill, you can watch the episode here:

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Kenny Williams to play in the Basketball Champions League

Kenny Williams, 2017 National Champion, will be going for more silverware this year after recently signing for AEK Athens of the Greek Basket League, who will be a favourite in the Basketball Champions League in 2022/23.

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Kenny Williams has been playing professional basketball overseas for just over a year now after one game in Israel before an injury, followed by a season in Greece for Kolossos Rodou in Rhodes, Greece.

Williams averaged 12.72 PPG in 32.2 MPG this past season in the Greek Basket League finishing in third place in the regular season, one place ahead of AEK Athens. Rhodes did have a shock exit early in the playoffs.

AEK Athens does have a rich history in basketball though, most recently winning the FIBA Intercontinental Cup in 2019. Athens will be hoping to win the Basketball Champions League again, which they last won in 2018.

Ilias Kantzouris, recently left the role of Head Coach for Kolossos Rodou to become the new Head Coach for AEK Athens, so Williams will have a familiar face with him in the capital of Greece.

Last season, Kenny’s former Tar Heel teammate, Luke Maye had a great season in the Basketball Champions League averaging 11.2 PPG in the competition and taking the Spanish side, BAXI Manresa all the way to the final, just missing out to Lenovo Tenerife.

Kenny joined The Tar Heel Show this past season, to talk about his time overseas and his stories from Chapel Hill, you can watch the episode here:

Tar Heel International wishes Kenny good luck this next season and will be looking forward to covering his statistics for another year.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGAPGRPG
KOLOSSOS RHODES (GREECE)2021/2232.212.722.23.56
Statistics are up to date as of July 15th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

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Joel James signs a new professional basketball contract in Russia

Joel James is getting the recognition he deserves and is signing for a top team in Europe, Parma Basket in Russia. Joel has spent the past four seasons playing professional basketball and has been putting up impressive numbers, landing himself a contract in the VTB United League.

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Joel James was coming off a great season in Turkey for Duzce Belediye, leading his team in rebounds and blocks. Joel decided to stay in Turkey in the 2021/22 season and sign for Ted Ankara Kolejliler.

James averaged 9.8 PPG and 10 RPG in the second-tier of Turkish basketball. The big-man led his team in rebounds and blocks per game this past year, which obviously attracted the attention of Russian side, Parma Basket.

Parma Basket are a considered a very good team in Europe and there most recent trophy was the Russian Cup in 2019. This is the highest level James has played since playing professional basketball. Parma Basket would normally play in one of the top European basketball competitions, but there is currently a suspension on Russian teams in these competitions due to the invasion of Ukraine.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGDBL/DBL
RAYOS DE HERMOSILLO (MEXICO)2018/1927.312.119.5722
CAPITANES CIUDAD DE MEXICO (MEXICO)2019/2022.210.916.146
DUZCE BELEDIYE (TURKEY)2020/2128.712.7511.9320
TED ANKARA KOLEJLILER (TURKEY)2021/2226.59.810.010
Statistics are up to date as of July 15th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Before Joel heads off to Russia, he was also not having any time off during the summer season either…

James signed a short-term contract with Canadian Elite League team, Hamilton Honey Badgers and has currently been coming off the bench grabbing boards and throwing it down. The Honey Badgers have recently clinched a spot in the playoffs.

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Walker Miller signs two professional contracts overseas in New Zealand and Netherlands

Walker Miller, a former walk-on in Chapel Hill has signed not one, but two professional basketball contracts after five years in college basketball. Miller is currently playing in New Zealand for the summer, before heading out to Netherlands.

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Walker Miller played 66 games as a walk-on for the University of North Carolina, before using his extra year of eligibility due to the COVID year to play under Tar Heel, King Rice, at Monmouth University. Miller averaged 14.6 PPG and 5.4 RPG in his year at Monmouth and caught the attention of multiple professional teams across the world.

Miller signed for Wellington Saints in June and will be playing in the NZNBL (National Basketball League – New Zealand). The NZNBL runs from April to August.

Walker also signed to play for Basketball Academie Limburg in the Netherlands and will be playing in the BNXT League, the top-tier of Dutch and Belgian basketball, after he has finished his season in New Zealand. Nate Britt played in the BNXT League for Yoast United, ending the season in the Top 5 for steals and minutes per game in the league.

Walker is the younger brother of 2005 National Champion, Wes Miller.

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Kennedy Meeks signs to play in Dominican Republic this summer.

There will be no days off for 2017 NCAA Champion, Kennedy Meeks, as instead of having an ‘off-season’, he has signed for Marineros de Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic throughout the summer period.

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Kennedy Meeks spent last season playing for Cholet Basket in the Jeep Elite League in France, the top-tier of French Basketball. Cholet Basket ended their season with a record of 18-16 and finished in 8th, the final spot for the playoffs. Cholet went up against ASVEL Basket, the team of Victor Wembanyama, losing 2-1 to finish the season.

Meeks averaged 7.36 PPG and 3.6 RPG across 25 games in France after the last three seasons in Japan and South Korea.

The Liga Nacional de Balonesto is the main division in Dominican Republic with only 8 teams playing in a round-robin format.

TEAMSEASONMPGPPGRPGBPG
LEVANGA HOKKAIDO (JAPAN)2019/2034.120.9710.871.23
SEOUL SAMSUNG THUNDERS (SOUTH KOREA)2020/2115.16.816.000.31
CHANGWON LG SAKERS (SOUTH KOREA)2020/2110.77.254.250.5
CHOLET BASKET (FRANCE)2021/2215.57.353.60.28
Statistics are up to date as of July 4th (source: basketball.realgm.com)

Last summer, Deon Thompson signed in Puerto Rico during the summer and sometimes players will join certain leagues around the world with a short season, before joining their main team for the year. This keeps them competitive throughout the summer, but also is an opportunity for another job during the ‘off-season’.

Another fellow Tar Heel has had success in the Dominican Republic Basketball League, Reyshawn Terry was the MVP in 2015. Kennedy will be hoping for some success in the next few months for Marineros de Puerto Plata.

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The famous summer pickup games in Chapel Hill between the current players and pros and why they’re so important.

Summer in Chapel Hill is a destination hotspot for many former players each year and it is known for the famous pickup games that happen in the Dean Smith Center. It’s when the pros come back to campus and take to the court to play against the current players. There are myths about what has happened in these games and Tar Heel International has spoken to many former players about their experiences of a summer in Chapel Hill.

Tar Heel International hears from Kennedy Meeks, Brandon Robinson, Justin Watts, Kenny Williams, Nate Britt and Deon Thompson about their experiences of the summer pickup games in Chapel Hill.

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The pickup games that happen in the Dean Smith Center over the summer are when the campus starts talking and getting excited for the season ahead. Rumours travel through Chapel Hill about who dunked on who, and the former players don’t take it easy, because the guys before them never did either.

A veteran pro always on campus is Justin Watts (2008-2012), and he understands the bragging rights you have among other pros if you’re a National Champion.

“When the boys won in 2017 and Theo and Joel could now come back during the summer and point at a banner on toss up calls… it’s a thing at Carolina where if the call is questionable you can win the call if you won a ship by just pointing at the banner. They pointed at the banner on almost every call that summer!”

Justin Watts speaking to Tar Heel International

Kennedy Meeks (2013-2017) has been playing professionally for the past five seasons, but he makes sure he comes back to Chapel Hill every summer to work out and play some pick-up.

“The games are important because we showcase the past and the present. We see how the game has changed and we evaluate how to make it better. Now I think as a pro, we use it to our advantage.

Kennedy Meeks speaking to Tar Heel International

It is widely known that the pickup games are not just a friendly battle and the coaches want to see their current players working hard. Kennedy remembers when Coach Roy Williams was not happy with his team’s performance.

“A favourite memory would be when my team was playing bad and coach cussing us out after on how embarrassing we played.”

Kennedy Meeks on Coach Roy Williams attitude towards the games

The pros returning to campus is not a recent occurrence. Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith (1983-1987) recently spoke on All The Smoke Podcast about when Michael Jordan came back for the summer after joining the Chicago Bulls.

“He (Michael Jordan) would call all our rooms and say ‘schools in sessions’ and we would know Mike’s here. We would have 4,000 people come into the gym and watch our pickup games.”

Kenny Smith speaking on All The Smoke Podcast

The famous pickup games are sometimes played in front of the kids who are attending the Carolina Basketball Camps, as well as the games played behind closed doors too. The camp games are obviously filled with a lot more atmosphere from the children. Brandon Robinson (2017-2021) is relatively new to the former players team this summer, but is certainly not a stranger to these games.

“The camp games are important because it’s great now that the kids at camp get to see their favourite players up close and personal, who may not be able to see a game during the season. It’s giving back to those kids and for them to enjoy and look forward to.”

Brandon Robinson speaking to Tar Heel International

It isn’t just memories for the kids who are watching, the players will have moments they will talk back on for years to come.

“I didn’t enjoy it at the time, but now it’s funny looking back at it. KJ (Smith) was talking trash to Justin (Jackson) and Marcus (Paige) and then the pros just turned it up another level and beat us by like 13.

One time Sheed (Rasheed Wallace) was on my team, we had game point and a guy was talking trash to him, I threw him the ball for game point at top of the key and he swished it for three and started running around the court going crazy.”

Brandon Robinson’s favourite memories of the Current vs Former Games

It’s a great time for the Carolina Family to get together and have friendly banter on which era is the better era, and which team would beat who. Players who never played with each other, become the best of friends, look at Marvin Williams (2004-2005) and Deon Thompson (2006-2010).

“It is always fun to get out there with former UNC players. Like our last game, we started Marcus Paige, Kenny Williams, Jawad Williams, Luke Maye and me. What’s so cool about that is the range of age groups and different generations that never played together. But you put us out there and we played like we have been together for years.”

Deon Thompson speaking to Tar Heel International

Kenny Williams (2015-2019) is also a big advocate of the family aspect of the summer pickup games

“The summer pickup games are so important because that really is when you get a full glimpse of what the Carolina family is all about. You have guys who have been in your position and played where you aspire to play and they are willing to help and guide you in your journey as a player and as a person. You’re able to build camaraderie with guys that in some cases extends beyond Chapel Hill in the summer. I know from personal experience there’s been plenty of guys to this day who check in with me and just extend their support and that’s what the whole program has been built on.”

Kenny Williams speaking to Tar Heel International

It is such an advantage for the current players to have professional players around to challenge themselves, and that is one of the greatest advantages of having the summer pickup games in Chapel Hill. The pros also love the team and want to see them become the best they can be too.

“It gives you a chance for you to improve on the things the coaches want you to improve on in a game-setting and going against pros who are essentially better than you and the advice the pros give you is really important, because they’ve been through what we’ve been through, and they know where we’re trying to go.

Now that I’m a former player, I try to give the advice and pointers for what they can work on. I also like to talk trash, so I will do anything to get the game going and get the competition level up.”

Brandon Robinson on why the game is so important

“But as a pro, you’re just on the other side of the pros taking advantage of being pros and getting more calls… but no really as players we wanted to beat the pros so badly, and now we just want to get the better of the current guys, because at the end of the day we want them to be the best they can be and playing against guys who are currently pros all summer, only makes you better and I know that from experience.”

Kenny Williams on what it’s like being a pro in Chapel Hill

With the talented teams the University of North Carolina has produced, you would think the wins could be shared, but according to Nate Britt (2013-2017), that isn’t the case.

“It’s important for the current players to see and learn how to win. I’m not sure there’s even been a current team to beat the former team. Obviously, former players have more experience, but they don’t always have more talent. The former players always winning, no matter the talent, it’s been a subtle reminder that it takes a lot more than talent to succeed at the next level. Now that I’m a pro, it’s a bit odd. It feels good to be on the winning side.”

Nate Britt speaking to Tar Heel International

It’s not just the kids at camp who find it surreal. Freshmen coming in, getting to play against the likes of Tyler Hansbrough and Marcus Paige, guys they have grown up supporting for the players who were Tar Heel fans as kids, it’s an amazing experience for them.

“I remember my first night on campus and we played pickup and as freshmen you rarely get to play but you walk in and you’ve got guys that, as a fan growing up, I watched on TV and guys that I had cheered for as a kid and suddenly I would be the one suiting up, it was just surreal. But, that night I got to play the last game of the night and I guess I shot a lot that game and after Kennedy came up to me and goes “Make sure you put some ice on your shoulder” because of how many shots I took.

Kenny Williams remembers his first pickup game as a freshman

As soon as you return to campus after graduating, or even attending the summer classes if you left school early, the pros come back to Chapel Hill with a different role now and there is a lot of respect between all players.

“Games are so important because they allow the current players to compete against pros which will be the best competition they face in the in upcoming year. Also always former players to build a bond with the current players and bridge the gap in relationships.

As a pro you are more of the advisor now, trying to set a standard and show them how to win, letting them hear different perspectives so they can understand their mistakes, more of a teacher.”

Justin Watts speaking to Tar Heel International

I was lucky enough to experience a current players vs pro pickup game when I spent a summer in Chapel Hill in 2015, when I was there to work the basketball camps.

I had just arrived from flying from England to North Carolina, and I walked into the Dean Smith Center as soon as I arrived on campus. It was the current players vs pros game, Rasheed was talking trash, Tyler dunked on some guy and I was in awe that all my favourite players were in the same place. Hopefully, you’ll get to experience a game like this soon too.

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The Podcast is also available on many different platforms; YouTubeSpotifyApple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsPocket CastsRadioPublicCastbox and Anchor FM.