UNC coach Roy Williams stands by handling of Nassir Little's playing time

ByMyron Medcalf ESPN logo
Sunday, December 23, 2018

CHICAGO -- Following his team's 80-72 loss to Kentuckyin the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago, North Carolinacoach Roy Williams blasted what he called a report that he claimed had questioned his handling of five-star freshman Nassir Little, a projected lottery pick who has averaged 19.8 minutes per game and hasn't started a game this season.

It's unclear which report Williams was referring to, but he denounced it at the end of his news conference.

Little, a 6-foot-6 forward, recorded four points in Saturday's game after finishing 2-for-8 from the field. Williams said freshman Coby White's pivotal role is proof that Williams isn't out to limit any young player's growth.

"I don't care what the hell anybody thinks," Williams said. "Think about this: If I'm holding the guy back, why am I playing Coby?"

Williams, seemingly frustrated, then repeated himself: "If I'm holding the guy back, why am I playing Coby?"

Little is currently projected by ESPN to be the No. 3 pick in this summer's NBA draft.

Williams said Little isn't playing more because he has to evolve into a more efficient player. He's also playing behind Cam Johnson, who is averaging 16.6 PPG and connecting on 49 percent of his 3-pointers this season.

"And the other thing, the guy that is playing in front of him made six out of eight from the 3-point line [in a win over Gonzagalast week] and was the ACC player of the league last week," Williams said, referring to Johnson.

Williams also said Little's struggles against Kentucky highlighted some of the challenges he has to overcome to earn more playing time.

"I'm trying to get him some more minutes out there," Williams said. "Today, we wanted him to drive the ball to the basket, and we settled for 3-point shots. In the All-American Game, they never guard anybody, so if you go down and dunk, you look pretty good in that, and he does that as well as anybody. He's a kid that wants to be good. He's a kid that's trying to learn, and he's trying to learn against Texas, UCLA, Michigan, Gonzaga and Kentucky, and so that makes it hard as well.

"But I think he's coming along. I love the way he wants to be good. He wants to be better. He's willing to stay out there and shoot extra shots. He's willing to do the things."