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Basketball is So Close You Can Smell the Leather

As much as we are enjoying football, more so than the previous incarnations on the gridiron, the basketball season is getting very close and the expectation level in Chapel Hill is so high I am a little dizzy talking about it too long. Inside Carolina has an absolutely fabulous article in which Roy Williams comments on each player. You can read the whole thing here. I have posted the individual quotes for each player after the jump with some thoughts of my own.

Quentin Thomas

Roy Williams: "I expect ‘Q’ to have his best year. He’s more relaxed, which means he can play with more confidence, which leads to better play."

THF's Take: Since Ty Lawson is probably going to play 30-35 mins(or more) by the end of the season Thomas will see spot duty at best and when he does play it will be important he be consistent, especially in protecting the basketball.

Mike Copeland

Roy Williams: “Mike is getting better offensively, but he knows he must concentrate better on defense and finish defensively by boxing out. As he improves as a defender, he will get an opportunity to help us this year.”

THF's Take: I could be wrong but I think Copeland will see the floor when UNC is up by 20 or more and there are less than five minutes remaining in the game.

Bobby Frasor

Roy Williams: “I am curious to see how his foot holds up. Bobby had a marvelous freshman year, and last year was extremely tough on the youngster because of his foot. But I have complete confidence in Bobby based on what he showed me his freshman year when he was healthy. He started at point guard on the youngest team I have ever coached and that team won 23 games and was a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think he can be even better than that when he is healthy.”

THF's Take: Basically Roy is not sure what Frasor is going to bring to the table yet. I think he needs to see what kind of player he will be coming off the foot problem and how he will fit in the lineup with Lawson having full control of the PG position. I have said for many months now I would like to see more from Frasor in terms of three point shooting than at point though when Lawson needs a rest, Frasor will be the guy over Thomas unless they are on the floor at the same time.

Marcus Ginyard

Roy Williams: “Marcus is so intelligent he found ways to make me put him in the game. He’s a solid defender, got much better on the offensive glass and does all the little things. He could have a real breakout year. Last year, he found his niche. He figured out the Jackie Manuel way to get into the starting lineup – don’t make mistakes and come up with big plays – and he did that.”

THF's Take: Jackie Manuel II. Ginyard was very vocal last season being quoted after the Georgetown game as saying the best course of action in the face of a loss was to begin working to make next season "even better." As a player Ginyard will be the guy on the court providing the shutdown defense and cleaning up the garbage. I will be very interested in Ginyard's role as a leader on this team and being one of the guys that keeps everyone on point.

Danny Green

Roy Williams: “Danny can cross the line from the three to the four. He’s a great free throw shooter, has become a better defender and is good around the backboard. I like him at the four in late-game spots because he can do those things. He’s another guy who I think is going to have a big-time year for us.”

THF's Take: Danny Green and Ginyard answer the question as to who will replace Reyshawn Terry's defense and rebounding. Green should be very valuable in terms of rebounding, making hustle plays such as tip ins much the way he did in the second half against USC during the Sweet Sixteen.  I also think there are enough weapons on the floor that the Ginyard/Green position can be relatively silent on that end.

Tyler Hansbrough

Roy Williams: “The big fella’s had two phenomenal years. Tyler is the most focused player I’ve ever been around. He has a chance to be the leading scorer and rebounder in Carolina history. I’m expecting a fantastic junior year with the same kind of numbers he’s put up before if not better. He has big expectations, but he handles it really well. He has tremendous dreams and work ethic and he just goes, goes, and goes. Tyler has really gotten better defensively. We need him to continue to improve his assist-error ratio.”

THF's Take: What else can you really say?  We know what we will get from Hansbrough.  Roy is correct in that his focus is unparalleled.  He is not an incredible athlete but the effort he gives on every play along along with his strength makes him a tough player to stop.  The main issues I will be looking to see him improve is his defense and also his ability to pass the ball back out of the post if he gets swarmed.   If the three point shooting is better this season, as I am expecting it will be, then  those kinds of plays could really burn opposing teams.

Wayne Ellington

Roy Williams: “I think Wayne will have a great year for us. As he gets more experienced, his field goal percentage will go up and that will open up things inside for us. He’s a terrific shooter. Now he has to do it more consistently in games. He knows he has to get better defensively, so he really emphasized it in his offseason work.”

THF's Take: I have nothing to add really.  The two disappointing aspects of his game last season was the lack of consistent perimeter shooting and the suspect defense.  Both of those have to change because UNC really need a legitimate threat that keeps the opposing teams out of zone defenses and there is no Wes Miller to come off the bench for defensive purposes.  Aside from that, you want your best players on the floor at all times.  I will also be interested to see how much Ellington is able to create his own shot when needed.

Ty Lawson

Roy Williams: “Ty was really good through the first two-thirds of the season, but improved to another level during the last third of the regular season and the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. We hope he can start this year at that level. He was so much more mature, disciplined, and aware of how to take care of his body and do the little things to help you win. Considering the tempo at which we want to play, his assist- error numbers were phenomenal.”

THF's Take: I would agree.  Lawson certainly got better towards the end of the season despite the issues surrounding the game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta which led to him being benched for the early portions of that game.  I really think this is a Raymond Felton scenario in that Lawson will be difference between UNC being good and UNC being exceptional based on whether he is on the court or not.  That is not to say that Frasor and Thomas cannot be effective but the things Lawson can do running the offense puts so much pressure on opposing defenses it makes scoring points an easier proposition.  What that means is Lawson had better be in shape and ready to play 30-35 mins per game.  It also means he needs to be able to play defense without committing fouls.

Alex Stepheson

Roy Williams: “Defense and rebounding are two areas where Alex is really doing a nice job. He’s going to step in and play a lot of minutes this year.”

THF's Take: It is be important for Stepheson to provide solid minutes subbing for Hansbrough.  Solid defense and rebounds plus some offensive contributions will add quality to the UNC depth.

Deon Thompson

Roy Williams: “People are expecting a lot from Deon because he played well in the Georgetown game, they’ve heard how hard he worked on his body in the offseason and he was one of the leading players for Team USA this summer. That’s okay, because I’m expecting a lot out of him, too. He’s further along in his game offensively and he knows we need him to pick up his play on the defensive end.”

THF's Take: Will the Summer of Deon turn into the Winter of Championships? Okay that was pretty bad but the same cannot be said of Thompson who was impressive in big games last season and wowed a lot of folks playing on the U19 team in the World Championships.  Obviously he will not be the same kind of defender as Brandan Wright but the offensive game I saw displayed over the summer will be a better compliment to Hansbrough in the middle than Wright was.  His ability to hit shots away from the basket as well as some of his interior moves gives UNC a very dangerous frontcourt.

William Graves

Roy Williams: “Most kids who redshirt take the year off, but Will didn’t do that, particularly in the way he worked on his body. He’s lost about 30 pounds since he came to college. At some point he will become an important player for us. When that will be remains to be seen, because he has to do it with people in the seats.”

THF's Take: Graves could be a significant X factor who measures 6-8 and rumor has it can bury three pointers at a fairly decent clip.  According to the above quote he showed some serious work ethic during his redshirt season getting into shape.  Roy's assertion that "he has to do it with people in the seats" makes me think he has shown some skills in workouts/practice but no one can say for sure if it will translate to the big stage.  Graves is one to keep an eye on and will be a major contributor down the line if it does not happen this season.

As IC says in the article, "The road to San Antonio begins Friday night."