North Carolina Tar Heels' Freshman Coming Along Nicely

By Jeremy Roth
North Carolina Tar Heels
Liz Condo-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels may have only had three incoming freshman for the 2013 season, but all three are coming along much better than expected.
The three players include forward Kennedy Meeks, guard Nate Britt and forward Isaiah Hicks. All of them have received a significant amount of minutes this season, and they have also contributed to a lot of the success that the Tar Heels have embraced all year. Now, the team is half way through their season and on a three game winning streak in the ACC. If they plan on being successful in March, then the young guys need to show some maturity and keep up the good work.

First off, Meeks began the year showing little to no potential as a forward in the Tar Heels’ lineup. They already had James Michael McAdoo leading the charge in the frontcourt, and everyone thought that Joel James would be a great asset at the center position. Unfortunately, James suffered a knee injury early in the season, thus forcing Roy Williams to filter in a few of his young forwards into the starting lineup. The only player that seemed to fit the part correctly was Meeks, and ever since he took over the starting role, he has flourished as a prolific rebounder and a guy that can score when the team needed him to.

He has been on a tear as of late, and many Tar Heels fans are starting to forget who James is as a result. It is safe to say that Meeks is one of the key reasons as to why the Tar Heels have been so successful in their most recent matchups, and if he continues this surge, then he will without a doubt be considered as one of the top forwards in the ACC.

As for Britt, he immediately took on the role as the starting point guard alongside Marcus Paige to begin his career in Tar Heels blue. His quickness is exactly what made Wiliams start him in the first place, because the key to the team’s offense is their transition game. Britt is not much of a shooter, though he has shown some ability to drain some shots as of late, but he could move all around the court at a fast enough pace to throw opposing defenses off completely. He is able to take the stress of bringing the ball up the court off of Paige’s shoulders, and it allows Paige to move to open spots on the court to receive passes from Britt.

The two work great together in the backcourt, but when the Tar Heels began to struggle in conference play, Williams replaced Britt in the starting lineup with junior guard Leslie McDonald. McDonald is a much better shooter than Britt, and his size causes several mismatches with opposing guards. Even though the switch sent Britt to the bench, he still comes into the games and continues to be a threat in the Tar Heels’ transition offense.

Hicks was the Tar Heels’ No. 1 rated recruit coming into the 2013 season, but he has not exactly played like it. His highest scoring game all season was seven points against a poor North Carolina-Wilmington team, and he has really struggled to get any part of his game going. The main reason for his struggles is the fact that there is really no spot for him on the team this year. He is essentially a small forward, although he is listed as a power forward, and the Tar Heels’ lineup is essentially just filled with guards and big men. Hicks does not have the shooting ability to play guard, and now that Meeks has solidified a spot as one of the team’s most profound big men, he is struggling to find himself in a Tar Heels uniform. Also, the fact that Brice Johnson comes off the bench and makes momentum-shifting plays on both ends of the court does not help his cause much either. We all know that he has the skill set to play Tar Heels basketball, or else he would have never even been recruited, so he just needs the playing time to show Chapel Hill what he’s got.

This year’s freshman class is a huge bright side for the Tar Heels this season, so let’s just hope that this not only leads to success this year, but success in future seasons as well.

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