In preparation for the 2009-10 basketball season, I will be profiling key contributors for the Tar Heels. Today’s profile looks at the freshman class.
John Henson: #31, 6-10, 195 lbs, SF
Leslie McDonald: #15, 6-4, 215 lbs, SG
Dexter Strickland: #5, 6-3, 180 lbs, PG-SG
David Wear: #34, 6-10, 225 lbs, PF
Travis Wear: #43, 6-10, 235 lbs, PF
Outlook For This Season
Much like 2006 and 2007, the incoming freshman will become crucial weight bearing members on this team. The numerous questions concerning the perimeter shooting as well as whether Larry Drew is the guy at PG points to a variety of scenarios where the rookies are the most important players on the team. John Henson comes in with the most hype and is expected to be a starter assuming Roy Williams does not get soft and start Will Graves at SF. According to practice rumors and what not, Henson has a "wow" factor. He is long, a freak athlete and capable of making plays that make your jaw slack. Henson is expected to be an impact player and if he isn't that will be news.
The Wear Twins, surprisingly, are the next most likely candidates among the freshman to play key roles. According to Roy, both are so fundamentally sound not to mention smart players. Both players handle the ball extremely well and are versatile enough to play three different positions. It is difficult to go wrong with players who are sound in their fundamentals and that fact alone will earn these two time on the floor.
Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald will be working to carve out a niche on the perimeter. Strickland will likely be the back-up PG and must find a way to grow into that role much quicker than Drew had to last season. McDonald is the 2nd coming of Jackie Manuel/Marcus Ginyard except he has some offensive skills. His role might be limited given the personnel ahead of him, unless he turns out to be really, really good.
As with all freshman the chief concern is experience. Then again, everyone is relying on younger players nowadays so perhaps it is not nearly as crucial as we might think. What is important is confidence and whether the stress of playing the toughest out of conference schedule in the country will rob these young players of the self assurance they need to grow in their first season. The 2006 team dealt with zero pressure but 2007 was ranked #1 out of the gate with three freshman who played significant minutes alongside sophomores. This isn't Roy's first ride at this particular rodeo but don't be shocked if we see some losses early while the kinks are worked out.
The best thing you can wish for a freshman is they play consistently. The experience and confidence factors not to mention the speed of the game, road environments and adjustments to college life in general breed inconsistent play. If these guys can simply put together some solid performances on a routine basis, the experienced players on the team are more than talented enough to carry the rest of the load.