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UNC vs. Elon - Player of the Game: Nassir Little

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The freshman had an impact in every phase of the game Friday night.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wofford Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

If you don’t think Nassir Little saw the tape of Duke-Kentucky, then you don’t know what Nassir Little is all about. This is a young man who actually played DEFENSE in the McDonald’s All-American game. This is also a player that had no problem saying in an interview after said game that HE, not Barrett, not Williamson, not Reddish, was the best player in the class. He may be the most hyped freshman Roy Williams has had since “the junk” bogged down UNC’s blue chip recruiting, but he may also be the most competitive.

A few nights ago, we saw just how preposterous Duke’s platoon of superstars can be. Duke is THEIR team. They are the starters, the minutes leaders, and seem to even be the leading voices in the huddle. UNC is not Nassir Little’s team. There are three senior starters. There are veterans who have won a national championship. There is player who has already been named a preseason All-American. But nonetheless, last night (admittedly against inferior competition) we saw a flash of how special Nassir Little can be for the Tar Heels and how his competitive fire can make this team elite.

Little finished with 21 points on 9-13 (2-3 from 3-pt) shooting. He hauled in 7 rebounds, 5 of them offensive. He had 3 steals and a block and didn’t turn it over. He played terrific defense throughout his time on the floor. He threw down a trio of dunks. In short, he did EVERYTHING. But what was more impressive than that was what he DIDN’T do.

He didn’t press. He didn’t try to dribble into traffic. He didn’t force passes. He didn’t fire up any ill-advised heat-check threes. He didn’t take plays off defensively. He CERTAINLY didn’t pass up opportunities to crash the glass: He missed a pair of free throws, and both times tried to follow them up for an offensive rebound. He didn’t think twice when, up 33 in the second half, he threw himself on the deck after a loose ball. And that was against ELON, for crying out loud! Imagine the effort he’ll show when the big games come around.

What we saw last night was exactly what Tar Heel fans should hope Nassir Little will be: a fantastically-talented, totally-dedicated, unselfish player who has bought in to his role on the team.