The Junior Tar Heels – Part 2
by Dan Hauptman
While almost all JV players consider wearing North Carolina uniforms in the Dean Dome as a top incentive, some student-athletes play for other reasons.
“I am playing to stay in shape, keep out of trouble, and keep my grades up,” said Doug Melton, a sophomore majoring in biology. “Students who play sports usually have better GPAs. My time is organized because I know I have practice and games. Also, there is a drug-free policy and a school attendance policy. Everything is just managed. Your life isn’t about going out every night.”
As is the case in most situations, along with benefits come costs. For Wojcik and the junior varsity players, the hands down biggest cost is time spent pursuing a dream. The team practices for two hours, four times a week, as well as plays an average of one game a week.
“It’s very time consuming,” said Wojcik, who routinely spends time with the varsity and junior varsity teams during long days at the Dean Dome. “At the most, ten percent of my time goes towards the JV team. I do my full-time job like everyone else does in the country, but on top of that I have the JV program.”
The players appreciate the time that Wojcik spends with the team.
“Coach Wojcik is the man. Enough said. He is so well-balanced,” said Melton, one of three returning players from last year’s 9-2 team. “He balances the varsity and JV practices so well. He is in here all day with the varsity and then he spends all night with the JV team.”
Junior varsity players also have some time-juggling to do. Like all student-athletes, they have to manage their school time, social time, as well as basketball time. “All the work you do and you don’t get all the benefits that a scholarship athlete would get,” said freshman center Tyler Lester. “[Coach Wojcik] treats us a little differently than he treats the varsity players because he knows that we are students above athletes. We got here on our academic honors and things. He probably understands a little more about the extra work we have outside of playing JV basketball.”
Melton agrees: “You have very little social life at the end of the first semester and beginning of the second semester. Especially if you are one of the managers, then you have no social life. If you are one of the JV players, then you have a little bit of a social life. That’s the only cost.”
Although Wojcik and the players spend a lot of time participating on the junior varsity team, the 14 JV managers spend even more time doing chores all over the Smith Center. The managers have the same goals as many of the players: get moved up to the varsity team. The three head JV managers and 11 other managers perform many unnoticed tasks to make sure that the team’s practices and games run as smoothly as Wojcik wants.
“We take care of the little technicalities so the coaches just have to worry about coaching and the players only have to worry about playing,” said sophomore Russ Lauten, who is a head JV manager along with Emily Cozart and Bradley Vanhoy. According to Lauten, the managers spend about 25 hours per week working for the team. Their duties include: setting up all the locker rooms prior to practices and games, cleaning and putting the towels out, filling the cups with water, controlling the clock and scoreboard and typing up and passing out the practice plans.
In addition to the managers, there is a “quasi-manager”, L.J. Hepp, who serves as Wojcik’s unofficial assistant coach during practices and games. Hepp is a graduate student taking classes in exercise and sport science while working as Wojcik’s right-hand-man on the basketball team. When Wojcik goes away on recruiting trips for the varsity team, he leaves Hepp and the captains to run practice.
“L.J. is a good coach,” said Nathan Davis, a freshman forward on the team. “He played here a few years ago and knows what he is talking about. I know he wants to be a coach someday.”
Coaching the junior varsity team provides Wojcik with a peek at what life may be like if he is able to fulfill his goal and become a Division I head coach. “Professionally for my own individual growth it’s a nice deal and you develop great relationships with the kids,” said Wojcik. “I want to be a head coach. I wouldn’t be in this profession for this long if I wasn’t striving to be a head coach.”
Wojcik is the latest varsity assistant coach at North Carolina to serve as head JV coach. Some notable former coaches include: Kansas head coach Roy Williams, former South Carolina head coach Eddie Fogler, former UNC head coach and longtime assistant Bill Guthridge, current Philadelphia 76ers and NCAA championship head coach Larry Brown, as well as the leading scorer in Carolina history, Phil Ford. The list is extremely long and filled with some of the greatest college and professional coaches of the modern era, something that speaks volumes about the importance that North Carolina and legendary former head varsity coach Dean Smith place on the JV program.
Although official records for the junior varsity team do not exist, it is believed that three decades ago the program took the shape that it is today. Before the 1972-1973 season, freshmen were ineligible to play Division I basketball. If a freshman wanted to play, then the only way he could participate in NCAA athletics would be on a freshmen team. The NCAA changed the rule that season, allowing freshmen to play varsity all four years and greatly limiting the appeal at a major university for having more than one basketball team.
While almost all colleges have gotten rid of their non-varsity teams, North Carolina has kept the tradition going into the 21st century. When the NCAA granted freshmen eligibility, UNC changed its program from a freshmen team to a junior varsity squad. Today, the team is made up of nine freshmen, four sophomores and one junior. The junior, Costen Irons, is allowed to participate because he is only a few credit hours away from being a sophomore. Wojcik does not allow seniors on his junior varsity team.
Everyone involved seems to enjoy the time spent participating in the JV program. “It was fun coaching JV,” said Ford, who coached the junior varsity team from 1996-1999. “The kids worked their tails off and I really enjoyed that. Also, the players got along very well and there was no complaining about not playing because everybody got a chance to play.”
For the players, they get to play in front of family and friends at the Smith Center. Also, they join the select few who can honestly claim that they wore a North Carolina uniform on the floor of one of the most legendary basketball arenas in the world. In addition, a few of the student-athletes get a chance to make a dream come true and one day suit up for the prestigious University of North Carolina men’s varsity team. Although there continues to be little hoopla surrounding the games, the longstanding junior varsity program at UNC will surely continue for as long as basketballs are dribbled and points are scored.
2001-02 UNC Junior Varsity Roster
30 C So Bryan Bell
31 G Fr Courtney Crawford
32 F Fr Nathan Davis
04 G Fr Doug Esleeck
34 F Fr Charlie Everett
41 C Fr Karl Herrmann
14 F Fr CJ Hooker
21 G Jr *Costen Irons
05 F Fr Rock Jackson
50 C Fr Tyler Lester
42 G Fr Nick Love
40 F So *Doug Melton
15 G So *Jonathan Miller
24 G So Jonathan Stout
Head Coach: Doug Wojcik (Navy ’87)
* = Returning player
2001-02 UNC Junior Varsity Schedule
Nov. 16 Broughton High School
Nov. 20 Methodist College
Nov. 28 Guilford College
Dec. 02 Blue Ridge School
Jan. 12 Fork Union Military Academy
Jan. 23 Christian Faith Center
Jan. 29 Laurinburg Institute
Feb. 10 Pfeiffer University
Feb. 17 Queens College
Feb. 20 TBA
Feb. 23 New Hampton School
Feb. 27 Hargrave Military Academy