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In the ramp up to the 2012-13 basketball season, the Tar Heel Blog will be profiling key Tar Heels who will likely be major contributors this season. Today’s profile looks at guard Dexter Strickland.
Position: Point/Wing Guard
Weight: 180 lbs
2011-12 Stats: 19 gms, 7.5 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 57.0 FG%, 66.7 FT%
Career Stats: 92 gms, 6.7 ppg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 47.2 FG%, 68.4 FT%
What Happened Last Season
The story of Dexter Strickland's junior season reads almost identically to that of his team's: much promise early, but totally derailed by injury in the end. Perhaps the most frustrating part of Strickland's injury last season was the fact that it occurred just as he seemed to be most comfortable with his role on the team. At the time of his injury, Strickland was playing some of the best basketball of his career. He was not only UNC's best defensive player, routinely locking down opponent's best perimeter players, but also one of the team's most surprisingly efficient on offense (ORtg: 111.2) due to his ability to be a "1-man fastbreak" and his superior shot selection (57.0 FG%; 2 3PA).
Outlook for this season
Physically, he should be fine, but the big thing for Strickland will be how he's recovered mentally; in fact, he even said as much during UNC's Media Day. In prepping to write this profile, I tried to find a reasonable comparison in terms of injury and type of athlete. It turns out that in men's basketball, despite UNC's recent history, the ACL tear still a fairly uncommon injury (at least when compared to women's basketball and football). One example I did find that fits is Baron Davis, who was obviously a better overall player, but athletically, they are on par. Davis tore his ACL during the NCAA Tournament of his freshman year, missed the first 4 games of his sophomore season, and struggled for another 4 games, but by the end of that season, he was a 3rd-Team All American en route to being the 3rd overall pick in the NBA Draft. Now this should not insinuate that I think that Strickland will have an All-American, or even an All-ACC, caliber season; however, it does provide reason to believe that Strickland will be at least as good as was before getting injured last season.
Health is obviously the biggest concern for Strickland this season. At Media Day, Roy Williams showed little hesitation when he declared that he would be giving the ball to Marcus Paige to start the season as UNC's point guard. Some of this maybe due to the fact Strickland is coming off an injury, but it could also be an indication that Roy is hopeful to be able to use Strickland in much the same manner did last season: a combo guard who slides from one position to the other based on who is on the court with him. If this is the case, then the concern will really be whether or not Strickland has maintain the elite athleticism that allowed him to play so well through the first half of last season.
115.0 ORtg, 7.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 50.0 FG%, 75.0 FT%
If I had to guess, I would bet that Strickland plays a very similar role to the one that Bobby Frasor (who was also returning from an ACL tear) played for the 2009 team. A player who is capable of coming in off the bench, playing great defense and being comfortable at either the 1 or 2. But unlike Frasor, Strickland should be a much more efficient offensive player (even without shooting the 3), so instead of 17 mpg, I expect that he will get more in the neighborhood of 20 - 22 mpg.