UNC’s Lit­tle crashes the boards to get more min­utes

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - College Basketball - BY JONATHAN M. ALEXAN­DER jalexan­[email protected]­sob­server.com Alexan­der, 919- 829- 4822; @jon­malexan­der

North Carolina fresh­man wing Nas­sir Lit­tle knew if he wanted to get more play­ing time on Fri­day, he had to crash the boards.

Lit­tle, who was the No. 3 re­cruit in the Class of 2018, and a McDon­ald’s All-Amer­i­can in high school, had high ex­pec­ta­tions head­ing into the sea­son. He had 7 points, 2 re­bounds and 2 blocks in his first col­lege game, but he only played in 18 min­utes.

He wanted to make a big­ger im­pact.

“On Tues­day, I re­ally felt that was some­thing I lagged, and I knew I could do bet­ter,” Lit­tle said. “So I just told my­self, be ag­gres­sive get­ting to the glass and go hard.” Lit­tle did.

The 6-6, 220-pound Lit­tle grabbed seven re­bounds, in­clud­ing five of­fen­sive re­bounds and helped UNC (2-0) win on Fri­day night against Elon 116-67. He played in 20 min­utes on Fri­day, but the game was far out of reach early in the sec­ond half.

Lit­tle’s of­fen­sive re­bounds helped ex­tend pos­ses­sions and con­trib­uted to UNC’s 18-point half­time lead, de­spite Elon’s hot shoot­ing. He was a big rea­son the Tar Heels’ re­bounded 70 per­cent of their misses in the first half.

“I re­ally thought he had more,” Williams said. “I told our staff in front of the whole team he had the most of­fen­sive re­bounds in the first half...He wants to play more and that’s the best way to do it, just to get to that board and make things hap­pen. He’s com­ing quickly.”

Lit­tle, who came off the bench, fin­ished Fri­day’s game with 21 points, which was tied for the team lead with grad­u­ate for­ward Cam John­son. Lit­tle was 9-for-13 from the floor and 2-for-3 from be­hind the 3-point line.

He showed off his ath­leti­cism on Fri­day with a few break­away high­light reel dunks.

Lit­tle said his mo­ti­va­tion this sea­son is to help the team win and his de­sire is to win a na­tional cham­pi­onship at UNC.

“I’m think­ing if we’re play­ing a re­ally good team, I’ve got to do my part and re­bound bet­ter and get to the glass,” Lit­tle said.

LIT­TLE’S RE­AC­TION TO FBI DOC­U­MENTS

Fri­day was the sec­ond time Lit­tle was avail­able to talk to the me­dia. But it was first time he ad­dressed the FBI doc­u­ments, which de­scribed a plan to get him and other top re­cruits to com­mit to Adi­das-spon­sored uni­ver­si­ties in ex­change for money.

In Septem­ber 2017, the FBI re­leased doc­u­ments that showed Jonathan Brad Au­gus­tine, Lit­tle’s for­mer AAU coach, was one of sev­eral peo­ple in­volved in a scheme to pay the fam­i­lies of top prospects in ex­change for their com­mit­ment to cer­tain Adi­das-spon­sored uni­ver­si­ties.

The doc­u­ments de­scribed a re­cruit that fit Lit­tle’s pro­file, but never de­scribed he or his fam­ily as tak­ing part in the scheme. The fam­ily de­nied they were in­volved.

Lit­tle said on Fri­day that he was con­fused when he read the FBI’s doc­u­ments.

“Be­cause I didn’t do any­thing, so it was like what are they talk­ing about,” Lit­tle said. “I re­mem­ber I was in class and coach called me in and said ‘Nas, you seen this?’ I was read­ing it and I was just like, I have no idea what they are talk­ing about. So it was just kind of con­fus­ing to me.”

It was later re­vealed that Au­gus­tine, the al­leged fa­cil­i­ta­tor of the deal, told fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he wanted to keep the money for him­self.Ac­cord­ing to text mes­sages that were re­vealed in court last month, Au­gus­tine and a for­mer agent/run­ner, Chris­tian Dawkins, ap­peared to fear what would hap­pen if the Lit­tle fam­ily found out. Lit­tle said it was tough go through at first, but he knew his fam­ily did not do any­thing wrong.

In Oc­to­ber at ACC Me­dia Day, Williams said he never had any hes­i­ta­tion about play­ing Lit­tle.

“Nas­sir’s fam­ily, his mom and his dad, and Nas­sir, I be­lieved what they said,” Williams said then. “I strongly be­lieved what they said.”

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