In the ramp up to the 2011-12 basketball season, Tar Heel Fan will be profiling key Tar Heels who will likely be major contributors this season. Today’s profile looks at guard Dexter Strickland.
Weight: 180 lbs
2010-11 Stats: 37 gms, 7.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.2 spg, 45.6 FG%, 68.6 FT%
Career Stats: 73 gms, 6.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.1 spg, 44.5 FG%, 68.8 FT%
What Happened Last Season
While this play was clearly Strickland's singular moment of the season, his best overall game came two weeks later, when he scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds against Wahington, all while completely owning the Huskies' star point guard, Isaiah Thomas, on the defensive side of the ball. Oh, and all of this was done while playing through a knee injury that would have sidelined many players.
Looking at the season as a whole, the biggest criticism of Strickland's game was that he did not shoot enough, or well enough (25.0 3FG%). But beyond that, Strickland actually had a really good season. On a team where he was going to be the 5th option regardless of how well he shot, Strickland gave the Heels exactly what they needed, serving as the team's best defensive player on the perimeter and a player who was able to push the tempo in the open court. For the season, Strickland led the team in steals (46), led all guards in rebounding (3.1 rpg) and led all perimeter players in FG% (45.6%)
Outlook For This Season
The switch appeared to "flip" for Strickland last season during the Heels run through the NCAA Tournament. Strickland played arguably his best basketball during UNC's four tournament games, averaging 10.3 ppg (FG%: 55.5; FT%: 78.6), 3.3 rpg, 2.5 apg and 2.0 spg, to go along with lights out defense and a consistent aggression in the open court. Heading into this season, it is probably fair to expect more of the same from Strickland, as he should be completely comfortable with his role on the team, and the addition of Stillman White should limit the amount of time Strickland needs to serve as to sole point guard on the floor of the Tar Heels. Look for Strickland to continue pushing the envelope in the open court and be a dark horse contender to be the Heels leader in, "Holy Crap!!"-plays.
Three point shooting. Does Strickland need to be a lethal shooter for the Heels to reach the ultimate levels of success? No, especially if Barnes and Marshall shoot like they did the second half of the season, and Bullock and Hairston can provide 3 or 4 three-pointers a game off of the bench. But if Strickland does happen to improve his 3-point accuracy from the mid-20's to the mid-30's, then he, and the Heels as a whole, become borderline unguardable.
10.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg; 48.0 FG%, 78% FT%
Basically, the player we saw the last four games of last season. The defense is a given, but if Strickland can consistently play at that level on the offensive side of the ball, including looking for "Ty Lawson - one man fast break" whenever possible, then UNC will be in great shape to produce a 30-win season and make a very deep run in the NCAA Tournament. And if he adds in the wrinkle of a respectable 3-point shot, then the sky is the limit, for both he and the team.