Chapel Hill, North Carolina is buzzing with anticipation for the upcoming college basketball season. The University of North Carolina basketball program took a major hit when Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, and John Henson all declared for the NBA draft following last year’s Elite 8 loss to Kansas.
The UNC basketball program and fans alike all expected Barnes, the former No. 1 recruit, and Henson, the two-time ACC defensive player of the year to declare for the draft. Marshall would also decide to declare for the draft with his two teammates, a decision surprised many fans, after Marshall had broke his wrist and was forced to sit out of the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games. Marshall certainly had the ball handling and passing skills to compete in the NBA, but most people felt Marshall wasn’t capable of scoring at the next level.
With Marshall, arguably the most important player on UNC’s team last year declaring for the draft, along with Henson, Barnes, and Zeller entering the draft after his senior year, coach Roy Williams is faced with a tough challenge this year. Barnes, Zeller, Henson, and Marshall were the four key players that led the Tar Heels to leading the nation in rebounds with 45.2 rebounds per game, while averaging 82 points per game and 17.6 assists per game, which were also top 5 in the country.
With these four players gone, it is safe to say UNC needs someone to step up.
All eyes are now on sophomore and rising star James Michael McAdoo.
McAdoo decided to stay at the University, even after his draft stock rose tremendously towards the end of the season. With McAdoo returning he is clearly the best player on the Tar Heels roster. McAdoo averaged 6.1 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Don’t let these numbers fool you. McAdoo struggled greatly in the beginning of the season and many heels fans thought he was a snub. McAdoo came on late when the Heels really needed him too, forced to start in key games when Henson got hurt McAdoo stepped up. McAdoo is a force on the boards and has a good mid range game to go along with his post play. Where McAdoo exceeds is with his defense.
McAdoo at 6’9” is a tall and lanky defender, but isn’t much of a shot blocker. At his size McAdoo is a force with his perimeter defense. He is able to go out and guard his man tight outside the paint. Using his lankiness and quickness McAdoo is able to steal passes at the perimeter and take it in for easy dunks.
All eyes will be on McAdoo this season and he will have to succeed if the Tar Heels want to repeat as regular season ACC champs.
McAdoo is not the only 2011-2012 Tar Heel returning to the team this season. Sharpshooters, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston will accompany McAdoo, along with the injury plagued, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland.
Hairston and Bullock are going to be key players for the Heels this season. Not really known as a jump shooting team, Hairston and Bullock can change that. Bullock, had a successful sophomore year after recovering from his season ending, ACL injury as a freshman. He averaged just under 9 points a game along with 5 rebounds a game. Coming off the bench, Bullock shot a team high 38% from downtown.
The two players are almost identical, both great outside shooters, but can also take the ball to the rim and finish. Last season Hairston averaged 5.7 points per game while shooting only 27% from the 3-point line. Looking at Hairston’s 3-point percentage you may not think he is a good shooter. Hairston struggled with a wrist injury during the year and played through it, even though it affected his shot.
Also, Hairston is a very streaky shooter, one night he might not miss, while one night he can’t buy a basket. He will shoot better from distance this season and along with Bullock they will make the UNC offense more diverse.
McDonald and Strickland will also be returning to the Tar Heels lineup after both had season ending injuries. trickland was able to play half of the season, averaging 7.5 points per game with a 57% field goal percentage. Strickland also averaged 2.1 assists per game while serving as the back up point guard. Along with being an offensive threat, the guard, from Rahway,NJ, is arguably the best perimeter defender in the ACC.
McDonald was forced to sit out the entire season after suffering a season-ending injury in the preseason. McDonald, like Strickland, is a quick guard who is an extremely good defender and will have to perform to expectations this year. The pair is also going to have to be the two biggest leaders for a very young team this year.
Along with some key returners, Williams was once again able to sign 4 top 100 recruits. Among them is freshman point guard Marcus Paige. Paige is the No. 1 ranked point guard and is already named the starter for coach Williams’ Tar Heels.
Paige has huge shoes to fill in Kendall Marshalls’. Paige, like Marshall, is lefty. He is not as good of a passer as Marshall, but that is extremely hard to be. Paige can score more effectively than Marshall, but will have to be able to distribute the ball as well. Williams has developed the best point guards and hopefully he able to do the same with Paige.
Along with Marcus Paige, UNC welcomes high-flyer J.P. Tokoto, and big men Joel James and Brice Johnson. Tokoto has high expectations in Chapel Hill as he is being compared to Vince Carter. Some people feel that Tokoto is just as good of a dunker as Carter, if not better.
Johnson and James will have to step up down low in helping McAdoo and Desmond Hubert fill the shoes of Henson and Zeller.
Many people feel like this is a rebuilding year for the Tar Heels. Some people also say there is no such thing as a rebuilding year for a program like North Carolina.
Williams will have to teach all of his knowledge to such a young team in order for them to be successful. The Tar Heels have the talent to be a big time contender this year, but will they have enough experience?
I’m looking forward to exciting and new year of North Carolina basketball that tips off at home on Nov. 9th againstGardner Webb.