Anyone who knows Carolina basketball very well is familiar with the way things are done. In particular, seniority plays a big role in an individual’s playing time and whether they have the opportunity to start as an underclassman. UNC’s former head coach Dean Smith was known for starting upperclassmen over underclassmen for the most part. Very rarely did Dean start a freshman. However, there were some players who started every game they played in a Tar Heels uniform under Dean, such as Michael Jordan, J.R. Reid, Eric Montross, and Antawn Jamison just to name a few. Roy Williams has maintained this same tradition at Carolina, with the exception of Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough, and Brandan Wright.
This season, Roy Williams decided to start Marcus Paige at the point guard rather than have the senior Dexter Strickland start at the same position. Dexter is the starting shooting guard. In the past, Roy has been reluctant to turn the team over to a freshman point guard. Tywon Lawson came off the bench during his freshman season for 10 games, until he took over the starting position from Bobby Frasor. In addition, many people remember Kendall Marshall taking the starting position from Larry Drew a couple of seasons ago. Kendall backed up halfway through the season, then Roy started Kendall at the point guard position. Larry Drew withdrew from Carolina after one game as a backup point guard.
I think that Roy learned two things from his situations with Lawson and Marshall. One, true point guards are hard to find. College coaches have to get the most out of them before they leave college and bolt to the NBA. Two, seniority does not trump ability. If someone is better than another player at their position, then he deserves the nod to start; no matter what his classification is. This season, Roy has turned the team over to Marcus Paige from Day 1. Let’s see how this goes. The last two point guards before him (who wore the same number, #5), turned out pretty well. Both of them are in the NBA now.