UNC continued the parade of returning players before the media so everyone gets to ask about improvements, expectations and what not. This week it was James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert.
First up was McAdoo, who has certainly garnered the most attention of any of the players who talked to the media. Inside Carolina, Robbi Pickeral and Mike DeCourcy all burned some words on the returning sophomore and rightfully so. When a player bolts into the top ten of mock drafts based on a small sample, it is expected he might be the lynch pin to the team next season. If you had to pinpoint one line of thinking everyone seems to be on with McAdoo it is him building on last season and living up to the expansive ceiling he seems to have. DeCourcy however, not only asks how good McAdoo can be but also how much UNC's PG situation will impact that.
McAdoo will be one of the terrific talents in college basketball next season. He has excellent size and athleticism, plays with toughness and has promising basketball skills. It’s worrisome that he shot such a terrible percentage as a freshman (43.4 from the field), but that could be largely the result of irregular playing time. I think he’s a better prospect than Ed Davis was at the same stage, and Davis wound up as a NBA lottery pick.
Working on evaluations of players for the 2012 draft, however, has set off a few alarms regarding how difficult it can be for college players to excel when trapped on teams with deficient point guard play. We saw this with Bradley Beal at Florida and Meyers Leonard at Illinois, and the same problem could develop over the course of North Carolina’s season with Kendall Marshall gone to the NBA.
When the Tar Heels turned themselves over to Larry Drew for a season and a half, it did not matter that they were loaded with future pros. Now that Marshall is out of the picture, I liked what I saw of Marcus Paige as a prospect, although he’ll need to gain some strength. The Tar Heels also could use a veteran like Dexter Strickland or Leslie McDonald at the position, but it seems a lot to ask for them to come back from injury and convert to the point.
McAdoo is an All-America level talent. Will his teammates help him get there.
Assuming the guard play is fine, McAdoo should be as well although he did admit to being a little "lackadaisical" in his approach as a freshman. After talking with the coaches he began to realize what he needed to do and that his team did, in fact, need him to step up his game. He did that at an opportune time. Now we will see if he can handled doing that as the focal point of the offense. Video highlights of McAdoo's interview can be found here.
Of all the positions on the floor UNC probably has the biggest question about the center slot. There is uncertainty at point guard but at least there is a known commodity in Dexter Strickland and a touted freshman in Marcus Paige. The same cannot be said at the five which leaves people wondering who will start there. Will it be the freshmen Joel James or Brice Johnson? Or will Desmond Hubert slide into the middle and provide some consistent contributions? Hubert addressed his progress with the media on Tuesday revealing a couple of tidbits. The first is Hubert says he is up to 220 lbs from the very slim 193 he weighed in at last summer. Secondly, Hubert has been drawing advice/coaching from none other than Rasheed Wallace. According to Hubert he has been pitted against Wallace in pick-up games and afterwards Wallace explains what he is doing on defense. Hubert said Wallace has all sorts of little "tricks" he uses and has been sharing some of that knowledge with him.Rasheed Wallace continues to be one of the more popular and loyal Tar Heels out there, particularly for spending time in Chapel Hill helping the younger players develop.
Hubert's weight gain is certainly good news as he will need to deal with bigger, more physical players in ACC play and in practice with Joel James coming in. Honing his defensive skills is his best path to seeing time on the court. By all accounts Hubert is still a raw offensive player and still need to develop those skills. However his length make him an ideal candidate to be a defensive presence with shot blocking and defensive rebounding. That is similar to what John Henson did and while Hubert is not Henson he can give the Heels some semblance of a shot blocking threat. I would expect McAdoo, with his athleticism and penchant for drawing charges to also be effective on the defensive end.
All in all, the summer reports coming out of Chapel Hill seem to be positive. The new rule change permitting practice time with the coaches has been well received by the staff and the players. Hopefully it will result in a better prepared team come November.