Nov 20, 2012; Lahaina, HI, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) reacts to missing a shot against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2012 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Butler defeated North Carolina 82-71. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

UNC Basketball: What we Learned in Maui Part I Positive Signs

The Maui Invitational was a great test for the young North Carolina Tar Heels and we learned a lot about this young team.  Several questions remain and it’s likely that we won’t truly know the full potential of this team until sometime in 2013.  Despite a loss to Butler that was very ugly for most of the contest, I was happy with what I saw from the most part.  This season is a journey and one that is likely to be bumpy along the way.  In a two part series we’ll take a long at the positive, and the negative signs that emerged during the teams trip to Maui.

PJ Hairston is a man: Hairston is really emerging as one of the top players on this Tar Heel roster.  Hairston scored 47 points on 14-30 from the field in the tournament and is clearly the teams most versatile offensive threat.  James Michael McAdoo is the go to guy, but it is Hairston that can do the most on the offensive end.  Roy Williams needs to remind Reggie Bullock to stay aggressive and that the team needs him to score, he will never have to remind PJ Hairston to shoot the ball, and on a team that needs scoring that is a good thing.  I want to see Hairston play more minutes, I understand starting Dexter Strickland for his defense and ball handling but I think Hairston needs to play 20+ minutes per night.

Leslie McDonald has shaken off the rust: McDonald looked very rusty and extremely hesitant to open the season with over a year off from real game competition due to the ACL injury he suffered last season.  Roy Williams and Harrison Barnes were quoted as saying that McDonald was one of the Heels top six players last season before his injury and he’s starting to show why.  McDonald scored 41 points on 14-27 from the field and was one of the teams top two scorers in two of three contests in Maui.  He’s starting to attack the rim and shoot the ball with confidence.  He needs to avoid disappearing for long stretches like he did against Butler where he was pretty much invisible scoring three points on 1-3 from the field.  Perhaps the biggest two takeaways from Maui is the emergence of Hairston and McDonald.

JP Tokoto can contribute right now: Tokoto looked like a guy who would settle into the end of the bench on a team stacked with perimeter talent.  But as talented as UNC is on the perimeter, they have found themselves lost on the defensive end at times and that’s where Tokoto has found his niche.  Tokoto is a spectacular athlete who is a highlight reel just waiting to happen, still his offensive game needs a lot of work, especially his jump shot.  While we’re waiting on that part of his game to progress he has played hard and showed that he can keep his man in front of him and attack the boards, something the Tar Heels may need to rely on him for if they continue to defend and rebound the way they did the latter two games in Maui.

Desmond Hubert has finally been replaced in the starting lineup: I like Hubert, I really do.  I like players who are destined to stay four years and can develop, I think a team needs one or two guys like him on the roster.  At the same time, he is not a starter on a team like Carolina.  Hubert didn’t even score in the first three games of the season and at times even looked lost defensively and didn’t contribute much as a rebounder.  Every game leading up to the the Chaminade game he was replaced to start the second half by either Joel James or Brice Johnson and finally Roy went with Brice as the starter in the most recent contest.

Tags: Maui Invitational Tournament North Carolina Tar Heels

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