Monday , Jan , 02 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Playing time not a problem at UNC

There are some things that just aren’t worth questioning. Like if the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils will ever become friends. The answer is just too obvious.

Questioning why Sylvia Hatchell plays nearly her entire UNC squad every game is one of those seemingly pointless debates. Why?
 
Last season, Hatchell had nine of her players averaging double-digit minutes. Finishing with an ACC Championship trophy and a No. 4 AP rank in the NCAA tournament, Hatchell is looking for another dominant season, but with an NCAA title added to the list. 
 
It’s no wonder why Hatchell, again, has nine of her players averaging double-digit minutes and 11 of them playing at least nine minutes. After a 13-0 start to the season, I think it’s safe to say that her system works. 
 
“They get used to it,” she said. “I told them I want to be able to substitute and not miss a beat. It’s been fortunate that we’ve had some good leads in our games where I’ve been able to play a lot of people.”
 
Good leads? That may be an understatement. In the Heels’ latest rout, Hatchell extended her bench even further, giving 13 players double-digit minutes. The result: a 101-47 blowout against College of Charleston.
 
As more players receive more time on the floor, others time is reduced. Still, no one is complaining.
 
“The coach always says ‘If I put you in, I still want to keep going, and she has players do that – to come off the bench and keep things going,” starting point guard Ivory Latta said. “Sometimes, players take their game to another level, and that’s what we need.”
 
As the youngest of seven children, Latta is used to sharing. Her strategy is to make the most of her time on the floor. Averaging 27 minutes a game, the junior guard puts up about 18 points a game. In the Charleston game, Latta scored 14 points in 16 minutes.
 
The Tar Heels start their ACC season January 6, and looking at their non-conference play so far, the players expect few changes to be made. But nothing is set it stone. Hatchell plans on making any necessary changes to her rotations to guarantee wins.
 
In last year’s conference play, UNC defeated their major foes – Duke and Virginia Tech – but come the NCAA’s, the Heels lost in the Elite Eight. Hatchell and her players look to carry over their already dominant reputation into ACC play, and their long bench may be just the key.
 
“People would criticize us and say ‘they’re not going to go far’ or ‘they don’t have the depth or the rhythm,’” Ivory Latta explained. “They’re not saying anything now.”