Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Reggie Bullock is UNC's leading returning scorer, and he's about to find himself thrust into the spotlight. How will his game change, and can he be the offensive force the Heels need?
Position: Wing Forward
Weight: 205 lbs
2011-12 Stats: 38 games, 8.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 38% 3P%
Career Stats: 65 games, 7.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 35% 3P%
Reggie Bullock is the player I've had the hardest time getting a handle on this preseason. The junior wing entered the starting lineup when Dexter Strickland tore his ACL, and almost immediately filled the latter's role as the most tenacious defender on the team. On offense, he was really only required to hit one to three three-pointers a game, which he usually did. The only game where he really let loose was the Sweet Sixteen matchup against Ohio, where he dropped twelve points on the Bobcats in the last twelve minutes after being told he couldn't win without Kendall Marshall.
Now, he's squarely in the limelight. He has the best offensive rating of any returning Carolina player. He made CBS's list of the best 100 players in college basketball. And suddenly, everyone's going to expect a lot more points. Yet Bullock isn't really going to be playing the same position as he did last year, moving from shooting guard to Harrison Barnes' spot as starting small forward.
When you get down to it, my uncertainty about Reggie Bullock is basically a microcosm of my uncertainty about this team's style of play. We have never seen a Roy Williams team so heavy on perimeter players and sparse on experienced post players in his career at Carolina; you'll have to go back to his early Kansas teams to find a comparable team. Bullock will be playing a different role this year, and how much his style of play will have to change depends on a lot of external factors. There are limits, of course; Reggie Bullock is not going to be forced to play the post, no matter how dire things get in the paint. Still, he is a surprisingly strong rebounder, a fact often overlooked. And he can get physical when he needs to. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of UNC's fast break offense begin with a rifled Bullock pass.
I expect the Tar Heel offense will spread opposing defenses out more than in seasons past, in which case the slashes to the basket Bullock demonstrated during the tournament run will be key. If anything, I'd expect a much lower percentage of Bullock's shots coming from behind the arc this year. Similarly, he'll get many more trips to the free throw line, as he had an almost preternatural ability to not get fouled last season.
Assigning a leadership role to one player or another from behind a computer keyboard is an inherently risky thing, but you have to consider that this is a team with only three upperclassmen — two seniors in Strickland and Leslie McDonald, both coming off injuries, and Bullock. You here reports that Bullock is taking an active mentoring role, and that it showed over the summer when he took home the championship MVP in the N.C. Pro-Am. And I'm honestly coming around to the idea that he will have a bigger breakout year than even McAdoo. But this is a team more than any other where an individual's performance is going to depend on how the entire team gels. There's no Kendall Marshall to distribute the ball effortlessly, and there isn't a murderers' row in the frontcourt to give opposing team fits. The speed of play will still be there, and Reggie Bullock has spent the last two years doing the invisible things that never make it into the stat box better than almost anyone on the team. This year he'll be front and center in the spotlight. And I can't wait to see what he'll do there.
(Over/under on the number of times announcers will mispronounce his last name: 102)