Boston College junior Matt Humphrey was a freshman at Oregon in 2008 when North Carolina blew out the Ducks 98-69 in the Maui Invitational.
“North Carolina had a [heck] of a team,’’ Humphrey, who scored 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench in that game, said during a phone interview this week. “I just remember guys just being really, really good. [Ty] Lawson was on that team, [Wayne] Ellington, [Danny] Green, [Tyler] Hansbrough. It was ridiculous.”
So what does he expect when his Eagles (5-9) face the No. 3/4 Tar Heels (13-2) on Saturday in both teams’ ACC opener?
“Nothing different from the team I played my freshman year, just a bunch of different guys,” he said.
Humphrey is a bit different though -- older, more seasoned, wearing a new jersey.
The 6-foot-5 guard opted to transfer east after Oregon coach Ernie Kent was fired in 2010. A shooter from Chicago, Humphrey had gone through a couple of up-and-down seasons, averaging 4.4 points in 31 games as a freshman, then playing in only 19 games as a sophomore because of a knee injury.
He got calls from Michigan, Baylor, and TCU. But after playing such inconsistent minutes for the Ducks, “I chose Boston College because I thought it was the best fit for me, as far as getting playing time,” Humphrey said. “And playing in the ACC? That’s wonderful.”
At least, it looked like it last season, as he sat out per NCAA transfer rules. It was a difficult 2010-11, he said, practicing with his teammates but not getting to play in games. But he watched and learned.
“I definitely saw what it’s like to play in the ACC -- it’s definitely more serious, the games you play,’’ he said. “… Games are critical, every single games counts … and I’m just trying to pass that on to my teammates.”
Indeed, even though it’s his first playing year with the Eagles, Humphrey finds himself a seasoned-by-comparison leader on a team that features nine freshmen. Last year’s standouts, Reggie Jackson and Joe Trapani, are gone -- and this year’s squad has already used nine different starting lineups and 10 different players in the opening five as it tries to find its way.
(And that was against a slate of non-conference foes that included the likes of New Hampshire, Bryant and Sacred Heart, making for a sub-200 RPI).
Humphrey has started the most games (13) and averaged the most minutes (29.1) of the group. He’s averaging 9.6 points, but is only making 30 percent of his shots and 28.9 percent of his 3-pointers as he tries to shoot off the rust.
“We’re young, but we have a lot of guys who can make plays, and a lot of guys who can score the ball,’’ Humphrey said, pointing to teammates Ryan Anderson, Lonnie Jackson, Dennis Clifford and Patrick Heckmann, in particular.
“It’s not all that simple in college basketball, and we’re really trying to figure out our chemistry, and what combinations are right with one another. … We’ve just got to figure it out, you know?”
Like that 2008-09 UNC team that Humphrey faced with Oregon, these Tar Heels are also a Final Four favorite, with a “ridiculous” amount of talent and the desire to beat up on everyone in the ACC.
But after watching from the bench last season, Humphrey is glad to have the opportunity to play against them, and everyone else, again.
“I just expect myself to bring an older presence to the game, somebody who actually knows a little bit about big-time basketball, playing in big-time games … someone who can set an example for my team,’’ he said.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.