Reason For Optimism
With the 2012-13 season well under way, it’s safe to say there’s a lot to discuss about Carolina Basketball! I look forward to the opportunity to share my perspective on our program, as well as offer a different point of view on other NCAA programs around the country. First of all, let’s start with a few observations about our Tar Heels.
This team is young with a LOT of potential: Joel James is a 6’10” Freshman with raw talent that will improve quickly alongside the coaching staff at UNC. Marcus Paige, a phenomenal player/scorer at the high school level, is adapting his playing style to Coach Williams’ system. It’s tough to compare him to a PG like Kendall Marshall because their styles are so different. Brice Johnson, a 6’9” Freshman out of SC, is incredibly athletic with room to “grow.” J.P. Tokoto is a high flyer that shows sparks of greatness in his limited minutes this year.
The stability on this team stems from Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and a young James Michael McAdoo. Keep in mind that McAdoo came off the bench last year to relieve, arguably, the best frontcourt in college basketball from 2011! When opponents put together their scouting reports last year they were trying to stop Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes (4 of the top 17 draft picks in last year’s NBA Draft). No one was watching out for the crafty big man that could guard the top of the key for easy steals and break away dunks! Now that every team is gunning for McAdoo, he will have to adapt his game to continue to produce, both offensively and defensively.
Really, the point I’m trying to make is simple… calm down! We haven’t started off undefeated and we haven’t run anyone out of the gym this year, but it doesn’t mean we have a bad team. In casual conversations with friends and colleagues (..and reluctantly checking the message boards…) people are questioning whether it’s time for Coach Williams to step down. Quite frankly, that’s silly! College basketball, specifically recruiting, has changed so drastically in the last 20 years that it’s difficult to have the consistency you saw from teams and programs in the late 80’s and early 90’s. When Dean Smith, Rick Pitino and Mike Krzyzewski were walking into kids’ homes, they were recruiting high school seniors to BACKUP players like George Lynch, Eric Montross, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker, Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. You didn’t see nearly as many freshman having an immediate impact on the court (yeah, I know Michael Jordan won a championship his freshman year so there are exceptions to the rule).
With Social Media, YouTube and all internet news sources nowadays, college fans know more about an incoming freshman than ever before. The expectations are set so high that it can be nearly impossible to live up to the hype. And in reality, most “5-Star” recruits ultimately want to end up in the NBA, and they use the NCAA as a stepping stone to reach their goals. Kids aren’t typically recruited to top programs these days and expected to stay for 4 years.
A perfect example is UK’s National Championship team from last year that started three freshman and two sophomores, all of which declared for the NBA Draft following the season (this season they are 9-4 and we are 10-4: Striking similarities)! Take a step back and realize that when you have 4 of the top 20 NBA prospects on your team and they leave, you most likely won’t follow that season with a National Championship. Coach Williams and his staff are still doing a great job, and the bar should still be set higher than any other program, but the reality of college basketball is – You can’t win it all every year!