Oct 17, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks to the media during the ACC media day held at the Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

UNC Basketball Class Breakdown: The Freshmen


This is the first of a four part series for Keeping it Heel, where I will preview each class and their roles for the 2012-2013 College Basketball season.

Today I’ll start off with the Freshmen class, who just might be the most important class to the team. Losing key players like Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller make it difficult for Carolina to reload right away.

It will be tough to replace the star power of those four, who were four of North Carolinas top five scorers last season.

They do however boost a solid recruiting class this season. According to ESPN, UNC finished with the #8 2012 recruiting class. This is a positive for Carolina who looks to rebuild and get back to the Final Four.

Mix this freshmen class in with returning players like Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and James Michael McAdoo and this Carolina team might surprise some people.

Here’s a player by player look at the freshmen class.

Marcus Paige, PG

Paige certainly has the toughest shoes to fill of any freshman this season. Will he be Kendall Marshall? Probably not, as Paige’s game is directed more towards scoring. But don’t count his passing ability out yet. Paige was the number one point guard in this years class, and brings Carolina depth that they were lacking at the point guard spot last season.

The point guard position at Carolina is historic. Paige now looks to step into the same shoes that players like Phil Ford, Marshall, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton once fit as a Tar Heel.

Paige will make an instant impact for the Heels. But how far can this team go on his shoulders?

Brice Johnson, PF

Johnson will start the year behind McAdoo, who is ready to explode on the National scene, but that won’t stop Johnson from seeing playing time. He will get his share early and often and can play a key role for the Tar Heels.

Roy will look to Johnson to give McAdoo breathers for long stretches of the game. That’s were Johnson will need to be at his best. The 6’9″ power forward brings a defensive presence off the bench for the Heels, which could be huge.

Johnson can also pose an offensive threat coming off the bench. The long armed freshman will look to utilize his size down low and provide some inside presence for the Heels.

Joel James, C

James is easily the most intriguing player from this class, and could be on the entire team. I don’t know what to expect from the big bodied 6’10″ center. He lacks the post moves down low that could hold him back from succeeding. However, his body is a force down low that will clog up the lane and grab him boards.

It’s going to be very interesting to watch James as he progresses through the years. It’s very unlikely he turns into a Sean May type scoring center. He could however be a great re-bounder and defensive player for Carolina.

J.P. Tokoto, SF

Tokoto has freakish athleticism that he brings to the Tar Heels this season. Although he will start off as a reserve player, Tokoto can still have a major impact on the team. His flashy style of play will certainly draw him some attention. Tokoto has the ability to slam it down and make the big plays to give the Tar Heels some momentum.

He comes in as a small forward, but he might see time at the shooting guard spot especially if Strickland rotates to point guard when Paige comes out. Tokoto could have a very nice season for Carolina, but really needs to work on his scoring some more if he wants to earn a starting spot in the future.

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  • Bryan Finlayson

    Joel James looked like he had some great post moves during the scrimmage. Has a jump shot as well. Very impressed at first glance. Let’s see how he does in regular games.