UNC will still play 'Sylvia Hatchell basketball'

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 09:49 AM

Sylvia Hatchell may not coach North Carolina any time soon as she undergoes treatment for leukemia. But the Tar Heels will still play with her signature up-tempo, aggressive style for as long as she’s out.

“We’re still going to play Carolina basketball,” acting head coach Andrew Calder said. “We’re going to attack on offense and defense, we’re going to play with high energy, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Calder has been Hatchell’s assistant since she arrived at UNC in 1986. Together, they have won 636 times with the Tar Heels, helping Hatchell become the winningest active coach in Division I women’s basketball with 908 career victories.

Hatchell has been forced to step aside from her on-the-court duties as she began treatment at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, but Calder said that she still watches the practice video every day and he’s working off the gameplans she devised in the preseason. Still, there’s no replicating her presence on the sideline.

“What we lose (is) her experience and knowledge of the game,” Calder said. “But she always has made a commitment to prepare her assistant coaches to be head coaches one day. I’ve been with her for 27 years, and I’m going to coach the game through her eyes.”

Hatchell’s absence was felt during Wednesday’s ACC women’s basketball media day. Calder and Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie wore orange ribbons to support leukemia awareness.

“I’m saddened that Sylvia’s not here,” ACC women’s basketball commissioner Nora Lynn Finch said. “But I’ve known Sylvia Hatchell for decades. Sylvia Hatchell is one of the fiercest competitors in the game of basketball and in the game of life, and she is being treated at one of America’s finest cancer centers.”

Redshirt sophomore guard Megan Buckland said the team is still getting used to Hatchell’s absence.

“It’s been very difficult,” Buckland said. “Obviously she’s not there. But it definitely gives us some motivation, something else to fight for, something else to play for, knowing that she would want us to work just as hard as we had been before.”

The Tar Heels graduated three starters last season — point guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, forward Krista Gross and center Waltiea Rolle — but are picked to finish fourth in the league by both the media and the coaches.

Sophomore forward Xylina McDaniel, the 2013 ACC freshman of the year, was picked on the 10-player preseason all-ACC team by both the media and the coaches, while the coaches also selected freshman guard Diamond DeShields.

DeShields, the daughter of former Major League Baseball star Delino DeShields, highlights the consensus No.1-rated recruiting class of 2013, which includes point guard Jessica Washington, guard Allisha Gray and center Stephanie Mavunga.

The freshmen will be counted on as UNC sports one of the youngest rosters in program history — the Tar Heels don’t have any seniors. Sophomores Buckland and McDaniel joined Calder at ACC media day on Wednesday.

“We make no excuses,” Calder said. “We have great leaders, and we have two of them right here, and they’ve done an outstanding job.

“The girls coming back have worked extremely hard, and the freshmen are talented. So if we can get that chemistry together, I think we have a chance to be, in the end, very special. We just have to learn to play together.”