By Adam Lucas
ace Josh Reavis and Ryan Schmitt from GoHeels Productions worked around Pete Nance to set up all the camera angles and lighting that would make one of his first Tar Heel interviews look good, the newest Tar Heel graduate transfer was asked if this felt familiar.
Nance was, after all, a radio and television major at Northwestern, a school with a renowned media school. He proceeded to rattle off multiple tricks only a savvy interview subject would know, and then he grinned.
“Yeah,” he said, “I’ve done this before.”
Indeed he has, which is precisely what makes him so valuable to the 2022-23 Tar Heels. Nance isn’t an unproven freshman who will need to adjust to college basketball. He’s an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection who started every game for the Wildcats over the last two years and averaged 14.6 points per game as a senior. In that last year in Evanston, he notched a pair of double-doubles against Maryland, including a 28-point, 14-rebound monster performance, scored 20 against Ohio State, and put up 21 points against Illinois.
Yes, he’s done this before.
Despite the gaudy statistics, though, what he hasn’t done is play in an NCAA Tournament game. After leaving Northwestern, he went through the NBA Draft preparation process before deciding to return to college for one more year. When picking his new home, the opportunity to play in the postseason was an important consideration.
“As a kid growing up, that’s what you love to watch,” Nance said. “The NBA is great. But there’s nothing as exciting as those NCAA Tournament games. I grew up watching Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson and Danny Green in those games. That’s a really special experience the average college basketball player doesn’t get to experience. Hopefully we can get there, and I’m really excited to work towards that goal.”
As you probably already know, Nance is not in any way your “average college basketball player.” He grew up in a basketball family, as father Larry played 13 seasons in the NBA and his older brother Larry Nance Jr. is entering his eighth year in the NBA. His sister, Casey, played at Dayton and ranks in the top ten in program history in rebounds and blocked shots.
So there was no shortage of basketball knowledge around the Nance household when Pete was growing up. That’s why Tar Heel fans will immediately notice Nance’s advanced grasp of some of the nuances of the game.
“Scoring is the main component of basketball,” he says. “But what can I do without the ball in my hands and how can I be effective in any way other than scoring? Whether that means going to the offensive glass, being a good passer, being a good communicator, being a good rebounder, or being a good defender. People think it’s all about scoring, but there are so many aspects other than that. My dad has let me figure out my own game in a lot of ways, and I’m super grateful for him letting me figure out what my path was going to be.”
That’s included lots of pickup with his new teammates as the Tar Heels prepare for the first official day of practice on Monday. In those sessions, Nance has proven to be an adept shooter and scorer, plus a capable defender and scorer around the rim. What might be most noticeable, though, is the way he communicates—constantly talking and encouraging his teammates.
He looks like a player who is at home, even just a few weeks removed from making his decision to attend Carolina. A big part of that adjustment has been a newfound relationship with Hubert Davis.
“Coach Davis and I are both basketball junkies,” Nance said. “We’ve talked basketball for an hour straight just talking about plays or different ways to do things. I feel like I’ve tried to get a good bead on how Coach Davis likes to do things, his style, and how he likes to coach. I’m trying to learn that and convey that the best I can within the boundaries of knowing what I’ve experienced in college basketball and sharing that knowledge with everyone else.”