Basketball season is upon us and that means it's time to profile the players from the 2012-13 Tar Heel team. Today we take a look at Jackson Simmons, Luke Davis and the freshman class.
#21 PF Jackson Simmons, Sophomore, 6-7, 220 lbs
Simmons came to UNC as a preferred walk-on but has been on scholarship now for two seasons since there was a slot available for him. During his freshman year, Simmons played sparingly and mostly made appearances for mop-up duty. Will that change this season? Possibly. There are questions galore about UNC's interior and given Roy Williams' penchant for an active rotation, it would surprise anyone to see Simmons on the court, especially in the first half through the non-conference slate. Once the rotation is tightened up for the ACC run, Simmons minutes will likely be far and few in between. Still, Simmons came to UNC as the all-time leading rebounder in NCHSAA history meaning he might be capable of some contributions.
#4 PG Luke Davis, Sophomore, 6-0, 172 lbs
Davis began his career at Gardner-Webb and was named to the Big South All-Freshman team with 7.2 ppg and 4.2 apg. He transferred to UNC as a preferred walk-on and sat out last season per NCAA rules. Given UNC's lack of depth at point guard, Davis becomes an important player. It stands to reason that Davis would not be any worse than Stilman White and might actually be a little better. He already has one year under his belt and has been with UNC practicing for over a year. He should have a solid grasp of the system and be able to chip in some playing time to afford Marcus Paige and Dexter Strickland rest. However, like Simmons, Davis' playing time will be reduced when UNC his the meat of the schedule.
#25 SF J.P. Tokoto, Freshman, 6-5, 185 lbs
If there is an odd man out on the roster when it comes to playing time, Tokoto fits the bill. UNC has Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston at small forward and enough interior players making Tokoto's role unclear. Then again, Tokoto while ridiculously athletic, also has a fairly limited offensive repertoire at this stage in his career. That means Tokoto's value is his defense and rebounding as he refines his game. It is also expected, out of the four freshmen, Tokoto will see less playing time.
#11 PF Brice Johnson. Freshman, 6-9, 187 lbs
Along with fellow freshman Joel James, one of four players who will see significant minutes in the post this season. Johnson is athletics and long. At 6-9 his length gives him an edge in rebounding and blocking shots. His weight means there will be times Johnson will be find holding his position or battling with opposing big men a tough task. Johnson is thinner than even John Henson was when he arrived in Chapel Hill three years ago. Johnson is not on Henson's level and will certainly need some time to acclimate to the speed and physicality of the college game. Once that happens, Johnson has a chance to be a contributor, especially as a defender and rebounder. Still, he will have a role in the offense playing beside James Michael McAdoo.
#0 PF Joel James, Freshman, 6-10, 260 lbs
By the end of the season, James' size will mentioned more times than we care to count here. He is huge and strong having trimmed from over 300 pounds prior to his senior year in high school to the physical specimen seen today. James has only been playing basketball since his sophomore year of high school which does put him up against a learning curve. His offensive game has been viewed as a little underdeveloped although it did not look that way in the exhibition against Shaw. James primary value will be his physical presence in the post. This is a marked change from the past three season and a counterweight to McAdoo who is more of a finesse player. Providing James can adjust to the college game in terms of keeping himself out of foul trouble and improve his offensive skills, his play in the post might be one of the bigger keys to the Tar Heel team success in 2013.
#5 PG Marcus Paige, Freshman, 6-0, 157 lbs
Due to a lack of point guards, Paige is going to be tossed the keys to the car from Day 1. On one hand, Paige is certainly talented enough and based on the exhibition appears to have a grasp of what Roy Williams wants from him even if he cannot execute it consistently. In the inevitable comparison(fair or not) with Kendall Marshall, Paige is probably a better shooter but will need to work on aspects of managing the game which Marshall did naturally. The other concern is Paige's size. He is a smallish 6 feet tall and is 157 lbs which means he is going to find things very difficult against stronger point guards. Overall, Paige's importance to the team's success cannot be overstated. Solid PG play is vital for Roy Williams' offense but by no means does it have to be spectacular. Bobby Frasor helmed the 2006 team to 2nd place in the ACC as the starting point guard by being consistent and taking care of the basketball. That will be Paige's primary goal. UNC has the offensive weapons, Paige simply needs to ensure those weapons get the ball and not make himself a liability in the process.