Well we finally at long last got our first official look at the 2012-2013 Tar Heels as they took down Gardner Webb Friday night 76-59. All in all, the end result was a positive, but there is most definitely room for improvement. The biggest question mark for the Heels coming into the season was centered around the four young freshmen and how they’d be able to step in and fill the shoes of all the veterans that left to go to the NBA. Let’s take a look into their first game in Chapel Hill.
Marcus Paige: I thought the young point guard played pretty well. He took his place in Carolina history as just the 8th Tar Heel floor general to start his first game as a freshman and I think he did just as we expected he would. There were flashes of brilliance and then signs of inexperience, but it’s clear that Paige is a player. Marcus is clearly a much different player than his predecessor Kendall Marshall. I think his game overall was a little deceiving since he didn’t register a single assist, but he got players involved and moved the ball across the perimeter effectively. At times he did try to move too fast and consequently turned the ball over (four total), but as his chemistry builds with teammates and gets a better grasp of the college speed, he’ll be able to cut those mistakes down. I do love Paige’s ability to score. He has a great step back and mid range jumper which he able to create off of the dribble. Marcus did go 0-2 from three, but with more practice and game experience we know he will be able to hit from that distance. I do want to see more penetration from Marcus so he can get to the basket, but with Gardner Webb playing a zone defense, that made it more difficult for him to do. I think Paige will grow into a very solid point guard for Roy Williams, but it will take some time. He did have a very solid collegiate debut.
Joel James: Joel James played I think exactly the way we anticipated him doing in his first college game. He came off the bench and really took up a ton of space on the low block. Offensively he was very efficient finishing 3-3 from the floor with six points. I loved how he scored in variety of ways even if it was only just six points. He was able to knock down mid range jump shots and use the glass to finish. Defensively, he was disruptive. He did come away with one steal and helped force a few others because his massive frame made it hard for Gardner Webb to really dish the ball inside to their post players. The one knock on James last night was that he got into foul trouble. Granted, this is his fourth year of ever playing basketball, but it was clear that the pace of the game got James out out control at times on defense which caused him to foul opposing players. I loved the disappointment that I saw on his face when he did commit the foul which tells me he will put the work in to correcting it. I thought he ran the floor extremely well and am looking forward to watching his post game develop.
Brice Johnson: I loved Brice Johnson off the Tar Heel bench last night. I almost mistook him for John Henson at times because they are so similar physically. Brice may not be the shot blocking threat that Henson was, but he is most certainly a lot farther along offensively. Brice displayed such soft hands around the basket and showed a variety of post moves. The best part of Brice’s night was that he came into the game and was just instant offense. He quickly adjusted to the flow of the game and put up a nice jump hook in the lane and spun around on the baseline to free himself up for a jumper a few possessions later. Johnson also was key rebounding the ball for Carolina and pulled in five last night. I think if Brice can put it together on the defensive in like we know he’s capable of then we really will be looking at John Henson part two. His offense will be important for the Tar Heels this season the only question will be if he can do it consistently.
JP Tokoto: JP had a very solid game. In just 10 total minutes of action Tokoto had six points on 3 of 4 shooting. JP definitely displayed the athleticism that we all know he has with a couple nice drives to the basket. Two of his field goals resulted in fouls as well. I love his ability to slash to the rim and I love his ability to finish there even more. His length in the lane will prove to be difficult for defenders to handle once he finds space as he can adjust in mid air. He does need to improve from the free throw line as he failed to convert both three point plays. Tokoto was very active on the defensive end as well and got on the right side on a breakaway that got fans to their feet three seconds before the finish. When Tokoto gets by himself in the open floor he’s going to throw it down with authority. If Tokoto can develop his mid range jump shot he’s going to be a great addition for the Tar Heels off the bench. Nonetheless, the 6-6 freshman should be happy with the start of his Tar Heel career.
The Heels and their freshmen will be back in action tomorrow afternoon against Florida Atlantic.