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2 North Carolina A new look caused a stir for the Tar Heels, who hope an old look will serve them well

After Tar Heels coach Bill Guthridge approved a change in the
lettering on the front of his team's basketball jerseys earlier
this year from the familiar NORTH CAROLINA to an interlocking nc
(gasp!), 82.3% of more than 3,000 Tar Heels fans responding to
an Internet poll panned the new look. Apparently North
Carolina's vaunted system engenders so little room for
improvisation that even the uniforms must remain uniform. Tar
Heels fans described the new duds as "tacky," "hideous" and
"ugly." The players utilized a bit more discretion. "I came to
Carolina to play basketball, not to look pretty," sophomore
forward Jason Capel says.

Considering how tradition is cherished in Chapel Hill, it's no
wonder Guthridge is reinstating the trapping defense that former
coach Dean Smith employed for most of his legendary career.
Guthridge wants North Carolina to be more aggressive after a
season in which the Tar Heels finished dead last in the ACC in
steals and turnover margin and often lapsed into a laborious
half-court offense that struggled to score both inside and from
the perimeter. "Last year I always felt I wanted the game to move
faster," senior point guard Ed Cota says. "This defense creates
more easy baskets, and hopefully it wears down the other team."

Note that Guthridge has set these traps in each of the last two
seasons, only to back off when he realized he didn't possess the
personnel to spring them. Some question whether Carolina has the
quickness and depth to trap effectively this year, either,
especially since it will be without one of its fastest players,
Ronald Curry, who ruptured his right Achilles tendon in October
while quarterbacking the football team. He'll miss the entire
season. It also doesn't help that the Tar Heels suspended Cota
and his backup, Terrence Newby, on Nov. 1, after both were
charged with misdemeanors as a result of an off-campus fight on
Halloween night. They were expected to rejoin the team soon,

So, what makes Guthridge think he can pick up the pace this
season? First of all, he sees vast improvement in junior center
Brendan Haywood. The 7-foot, 264-pound Haywood was somehow able
to disappear at times a year ago, most notably during North
Carolina's first-round loss to Weber State in the NCAA
tournament, during which he had just one point and zero rebounds.
In July, however, he averaged 10.9 points for the
gold-medal-winning USA Basketball team at the World University
Games, and his confidence soared. "I admit I got rattled
sometimes last season when I would be double- and triple-teamed,"
Haywood says. "I'm more confident now, and I know we've got
enough scorers that, if I'm surrounded, then somebody else will
burn you."

Another holdover that Tar Heels fans may not recognize right away
is Capel, who had off-season surgery to fix an aching back that
limited his playing time and forced him to take some classes and
long flights to road games standing up. He's pain-free for the
first time in five years and ready for a redemptive season. Along
with junior Max Owens and freshman Joseph Forte, he must fill the
perimeter-shooting void left by the graduation of Ademola
Okulaja, the Tar Heels' best three-point man last year.

After an off-season rampant with rumors that he might retire,
Guthridge is now talking about coaching well into the new
millennium. He's even confident that Tar Heels fans will soon
forget about Uniformgate, especially if the new interlocking N
and C come to stand for National Champions. "If we win a lot,
then everybody will like the new uniforms, and if we lose, maybe
we can blame it on the uniforms," Guthridge says. "I'm still
fairly sure that it's what's inside the uniform that really

--Tim Crothers

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES Up in arms Cota wants the Heels to pick up the pace after a disappointing season.



SF Jason Capel[1] 6'8" So. 9.1 ppg
PF Kris Lang[1] 6'11" So. 10.6 ppg
C Brendan Haywood[1] 7'0" Jr. 6.9 rpg
SG Max Owens 6'5" Jr. 7.8 ppg
PG Ed Cota[1] 6'2" Sr. 7.4 apg

1998-99 record: 24-10 Final rank (coaches' poll) No. 18
Returning starter[1]