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Katz: Hey, This Marshall Kid Might Be Important

I was half tempted to call ESPN's Andy Katx, Captain Obvious here but this is a good piece on Kendall Marshall.

Here are some highlights.

Marshall is an old-school college point guard. Not with his game but with his approach to the natural progression in life. A year ago, he arrived at North Carolina and was not ready to assume the leadership role. And why should he be? He was a freshman going into one of the most prestigious programs in the country, playing one of the toughest and most scrutinized positions in the game -- the North Carolina point guard is expected to push the basketball and generate the offense for a team full of McDonald's All-Americans.

Marshall admitted in many interviews last fall -- in Puerto Rico in November, then early in ACC play -- that he wasn't ready to be anointed as the starter. North Carolina coach Roy Williams knew this and wasn't going to push him too soon. It wasn't until the Tar Heels had a stunning 20-point loss at Georgia Tech that Williams had to make the move.

One of the often overlooked aspects of the PG issues last season was the fact Marshall may have not been ready to assume the starter's role despite the fans clamoring for it. He knew it. Roy Williams knew it. The fan? Not so much. My own observation is that had more to do with Some Other Kid. In fact, the disdain for SOK ran so deep, I think most fans were willing to roll the dice with a "not quite ready" Marshall versus affording minutes to a guy who never got it. The counter argument is that Marshall looked plenty ready versus Texas and Virginia Tech. Point taken. There is more to it than what happens in the games and looking back on it now, the move to Marshall was made a perfect time for maximum impact on a season that was very close to tipping over. Little did anyone know at the time it would be the catalyst for another change(SOK's departure) which really propelled the team forward.

Now, Marshall's demeanor on the phone has changed dramatically. He has matured. He accepts that he is now a leader of a team with expectations to win the national championship -- something that is a yearly affair in Chapel Hill.

"I've made a lot of mature decisions lately," Marshall said. "I'm working out more often, harder and realizing the greater goal that we have to accomplish. I want to be the guy that leads this team now, that makes us better every night."

Dang that's an impressive quote. Marshall is a natural leader. That much has been evident for quite some time. Now that the team and roles are largely set heading into the 2011-12 season, Marshall as a sophomore can really step up and seize the leadership role. He does it on the court because that is the kind of PG style he plays. In this respect he is talking about being a leader in all things starting with working out more to better his game and push his teammates. If Marshall's father is not careful Roy Williams might try to adopt his son.

The Tar Heels will have oodles of talent that will need to be massaged so everyone feels a part of the process. Williams and the rest of the coaching staff have to do their part. But Marshall must be the calming influence on the court.

That process starts this summer and has already begun with pickup games against Carolina's NBA alumni.

"We're playing against men out there," Marshall said. "I'm going against Raymond Felton, and that's going to make me better. I think the biggest transition you'll see is defensively. We're going to be a much better defensive team. The last two Carolina teams that won the title were great defensive teams. That's what we have to do this year."

Marshall will head to the Nike-sponsored Chris Paul and Deron Williams camps later this month, but he turned down a chance to try out for the World University Games team going to China in August so he could stay with the Tar Heel teammates. His most important role is to ensure this team is ready for the pressure of being the consensus No. 1 and all the expectations that come with that tag.

"We had an emotional roller coaster last year, but this year we have even more to prove," Marshall said. "The ACC will be stronger. The schedule is strong."

Okay...let's isolate this for a minute:

...he turned down a chance to try out for the World University Games team going to China in August so he could stay with the Tar Heel teammates mean Marshall is going to stay in Chapel Hill so he can spend time with his teammates, build team chemistry and focus on getting ready for the season as a team? Surely that won't work because we know for a fact from the basketball geniuses in the SOK family that going home for the summer and working on your game is so much better for the team. /sarcasm.

If there are two things I worry most about the 2011-12 Tar Heels it is (1) the perimeter shooting and (2) Marshall ability to score when the defense gives him the opportunity. I think the first one will be resolved and Marshall will be a part of that too. The second one is the difference between UNC's offense being practically unstoppable. The 2009 team essentially was unless Wayne Ellington and Danny Green shot the ball poorly. The 2012 team will be the same deal providing Marshall can score from time to time in an effort to keep opposing defenses honest. Last season, Marshall's individual offense was suspect enough that opposing teams could craft a defensive strategy keyed on making Marshall beat them with his shot. If Marshall can resolve that "weakness" in the UNC offense and the three point shooting comes around...well...have fun ACC teams figuring out how to slow the Heels down.

Other Basketball Notes

The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy ranked the top ten basketball coaching jobs. UNC was ranked #1. Duke was ranked #8 and Maryland #9. I am not sure I would put Texas #3 but DeCourcy cites the lack of pressure and the abundance of resources as huge pluses for that job.

DeCourcy is also reporting that Harrison Barnes will attend the C3 Elite Guard Camp(along with Marshall) to work on his guard skills. Normally this camp is mostly PGs but Barnes asked if he could attend. Solid move by Barnes who has attended the camp for the past two years. One of his biggest issues last season was ball handling and getting through traffic with his dribble. If he can improve those aspects of his game along with his three point shooting, he will be a beast.