North Carolina Tar Heels senior guard Dexter Strickland will play a vital role for UNC this season. After suffering a season ending ACL tear 16 games into the season last year, the Heels were left razor thin at the point guard position and without their top perimeter defender.
Strickland will play a similar and equally important role this season. Freshman Marcus Paige takes the departed Kendall Marshall’s role as the likely starter at the point for Carolina and without a true backup at the position, Dex will once again be called upon to fill a dual role for Roy Williams.
The perimeter is stacked with the return of Leslie McDonald, Strickland and the arrival of freshman JP Tokoto, along with the presence of Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston. The depth on the perimeter could mean that head coach Roy Williams will have the ability to focus Strickland more at the point but much of that depends on how others, step up on the defensive end.
The competition for a starting role will be tough, after McDonald was injured, Williams revealed that he was going to be Dexters main competition for the starting job at the SG spot. Regardless of what position he plays the most or if he ends up being a starter or has a role off the bench, Dex will have a large and very important role for the Tar Heels this season.
UNC received good news when Strickland was cleared for basketball activities much sooner than expected. He has been playing pickup basketball with his teammates at Chapel Hill ever since and is growing stronger by the day. Although he wasn’t able to participate in any real competition such as the NC Pro-Am, anything he can do to knock off the rust is a positive. Originally it wasn’t known whether or not he would even be ready to play by the start of practices.
With the losses of Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, the Heels will need several returning players to step up in the scoring department. Don’t expect to see this from Strickland. Dex is a very efficient offensive player who knows his limitations. He’ll shoot a high percentage, take smart shots and finish well in transition, but he’s not a shooter or a big time scorer. Those roles will have to go to teammates James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald.
Although they eventually found their way defensively, the effect of Stricklands injury on the team was significant on the defensive end early on and his presence on that end gives the Heels a big advantage they went without for much of last season. How fast he can get back into game shape and play with the same efficiency we have grown accustomed to seeing will likely determine both his early season role and his impact on the team.