CHAPEL HILL– Carolina basketball preseason practice is now in full swing. And coming off an off-season marred by the P.J. Hairston debacle, the Tar Heels are no doubt relieved to finally be working on what they know how to do best.
Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige says he and his teammates are ready to for the preseason grind. He says only so much can be accomplished in pick-up games.
“I think everyone’s improved a lot. We’re ready for the season to start. You can only play so many pick-up games until you’re ready to actually practice. I know that sounds crazy, looking forward to line drills and stuff, but I’m just ready for the season to get started,” Paige says.
Paige says he has bulked up physically to prepare for the wear and tear of the tough campaign ahead. Head Coach Roy Williams says Paige looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger compared to last season. And Paige says with a year of experience now under his belt, he feels equipped for big success on the hardwood.
“I’m happy with where I am. I got a little stronger and in a little bit better shape. That’s a good way to start so I don’t have to play catch-up physically. Also, I have a year under my belt from a mental standpoint,” Paige says.
Senior Leslie McDonald says not only has Hairston apologized verbally to the team, but his actions have really been telling him that Hairston’s remorse is sincere.
“He’s apologized to the team. But you can tell by his actions. The way he works hard in the gym, on the court, and with the extra running you can tell he is really sincere about everything,” McDonald says.
One of the burning questions going into this year’s season for the Tar Heels is whether Coach Williams will be going with a smaller or bigger lineup. And McDonald says he trusts Coach Williams’ decision.
“You don’t know about this year. […] That’s Coach’s call. I can’t really tell you if we’re going to small, big, or whatever. That’s Coach’s call. Whatever he feels like is comfortable for this team,” McDonald says.
Sophomore forward Joel James says he has completely forgiven Hairston for his poor judgment. He says Hairston’s basketball prowess is extraordinary, but it is up to him to use his immense talent in a productive way.
“That’s why he’s such a special athlete. He can do these things that no one else can do, and he makes them look easy. He just has a gift. It’s up to him to use that gift in a positive way. The choice is his,” James says.
The Tar Heels open their season in the Dean Dome Nov. 8 against Oakland.