We all know that North Carolina lost four players to the NBA draft in the top 17 from last season. We know their names, their stats and who has taken their roster spots. We also know that North Carolina will have to move forward with what they have and what they have is a lot of talent, but the majority of it is inexperienced. This season, strong leadership will have to be used to bring this team together in order for the Tar Heels to make a run deep into March.
In an interview during ACC media day, Coach Roy Williams stated that he would rather have a team full of good players than good leaders, but this team is going to have rely on a lot of the latter.
First off, I want to clarify that if you are a good player, then that doesn’t mean that you are a bad leader and vice versa. I think guys like James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock are great players. Those are the guys that will come out and light it up every night even when they are under performing. Both players have been around the program long enough to understand what is being asked of them and what to do in order to get the job done. Having great players like this on the roster can win you lots of games and put you in contention for national championships.
The young freshmen that will be suiting up for the Tar Heels Friday night for the first time are unproven and inexperienced. We have some preconceived notions of how their careers in Carolina blue will pan out, but we truly don’t know whether these young guys will develop into great players, great leaders, or both. Guys like Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald, will be charged to help them find their identity. Both seniors have played for some good teams and some teams that were not so good. In 2010, both players were freshmen on a team that was plagued with injuries and lacked leadership and the team’s success subsequently suffered. Having been through that before, I think that their roles will end up being crucial.
The team will go as the freshmen do. How fast point guard Marcus Paige can acclimate to the speed the college game, how fast Joel James and Brice Johnson can establish themselves on the low block, and how fast JP Tokoto can be a viable option to fill in for the veteran wings will be the difference between first in the ACC and sixth. Dexter and Leslie will have to unify this young group. I really and truly believe that their example in practice and in games will be what gets this team through early adversity.
Obviously, when Roy needs to call on someone to make a last second shot, he will turn to his great players to deliver, but with this team, leadership from their older, more experienced players in going to be what keeps tight games from slipping away.
I know Roy wishes he had a roster full of great players (hey, who wouldn’t), but the Heels definitely needs to utilize the leaders they have on this team because they will make a difference when it’s all said and done.