I was so impressed and inspired by the first half of our game against Maryland. It showed what kind of a team we can be. We finally got Reggie and James Michael on the same page. Imagine what we can do if P.J. and Marcus get on that same page, all at the same time.
In the second half you have to give Maryland most of the credit; they’re an ACC team and capable, they just beat N.C. State. The way we took them out of their offense in the first half and the number of balls we deflected shows what we can do on defense.
If we keep improving we have a chance. There is no dominant team in the country, like last year with Kentucky. We’re going have to keep riding who’s hot in that game. It was Reggie vs. Maryland, at Florida State it was PJ, the next game it might be James Michael. But if we keep improving, I think our potential is off the charts.
You know I watch the point guards very closely, and I really like Marcus (Paige). He’s getting the job done with young players around him. And I’ll say it till the cows come home, he’s a good shooter. I’ve seen him at practice and I watched him before the season. He can shoot.
Six assists and no turnovers against Maryland, that’s pretty good. The players they have around them have a lot to do with the point guard’s success.
I hope we can handle Georgia Tech, and then comes State Saturday in Raleigh. That’s gonna be a toughie, but Carolina teams have done well over the years when nobody said we had a chance.
I remember my freshman year, we HAD State with David (Thompson) and Tommy (Burleson) and Monte (Towe) late in the game in Reynolds Coliseum before it slipped away. Then we finally beat them at Carmichael and again in the ACC Tournament.
And our team that year wasn’t a whole lot different from this one. I was a freshman, Walter (Davis) and Johnny Kue(ster) and T. LaGarde were all sophomores. We even had a guy named Mickey Bell who came off the bench to give us a lift like Jackson Simmons has done.
We DID have Mitch Kupchak, who was a junior and becoming one of the best big men in the country. But Mitch struggled as a freshman and sophomore. If we had legitimate juniors and seniors like it used to be, a kid could afford to come along more slowly . . . but now they have to play earlier in their careers.
We have pretty good big people – young, but they have size and length and are being taught well. Remember, we went to the Final Four in 1977 with three freshmen rotating at center – Rich Yonaker, Jeff Wolff and Steve Krafcisin.
So if the other four guys around them do what they’re supposed to do, you can get it done with young people inside.
Phil Ford was a three-time All-American at UNC, 1978 ACC Player of the Year and went on to be the NBA Rookie of the Year and an NBA all-star.