This is my final segment of the Carolina players and what I believe are their specific roles on this year’s team. This segment is exclusive to our four freshmen. For part 1, click here and part 2, click here.
Marcus Paige – This kid continues to impress me with every passing game. He has gotten so improved, as a point guard, with his ability to facilitate the up tempo offense that the Tar Heels run. Paige’s assist numbers have gone up and his turnovers have gone down tremendously since his debut. We all know Paige “can” score even though he’s been more inconsistent there than perhaps we would like him to be. However, we don’t need Paige to be the scorer for this team. His role has developed more into a facilitator. Paige’s primary responsibility should be to make sure Reggie Bullock, James Michael McAdoo, and PJ Hairston get as many touches and opportunities to shoot when they can. All of that starts with Paige. As the offense comes to come to him, Paige can score, but for right now, this team needs him to be more or pass first point guard.
Brice Johnson – Johnson has arguably been the fan favorite so far this season and for good reason. The kid just gets it. Plain and simple. His offensive skill set is very developed for a player with only half a season of college basketball experience. He’s got a soft touch, great moves in the post, and he runs the floor well. While his defense can improve, he has showed potential on that end of the floor as well. In terms of his role on the team, defense isn’t as huge part of the equation. Johnson is deferred, on the starting lineup, to guys with more defensive presence, but when he comes into the game, it is for one purpose: to score. Carolina needs Johnson to continue to shoot at a high percentage and put points on the board if the team wants to win games. His defense will mature in time, but for now, Johnson’s role is clearly defined as instant offense off the bench.
JP Tokoto – Mark my words, this kid is going to be a major stud for Carolina basketball. He’s about as athletically gifted as I can remember any Tar Heel ever being. Right now, his offensive game, especially his jump shot, needs more development, but his quickness, ability to finish at the rim and defensive ability are all second to none. For Tokoto, his role will be to play good defense and create transition offense because of it. His ability to lock in on opposing players at multiple positions makes him so valuable. For now, JP’s defense will cement his place in the rotation.
Joel James – Joel is getting better. That’s been apparent over the last couple of games. It seems that the nerves are finally starting to calm down a bit because when he gets the ball he’s taking his time a lot more. Joel’s role is a little harder to figure out than most people might think, but I’m going to do my best here. Joel is a big body that takes up a ton of space on the floor. He has a surprisingly soft touch for how big is and if used effectively, he could be a nice contributor on the offensive end. However, until that time comes, when James gets on the floor he needs to be able to create space a cause disruption. His size is the perfect tool to allow others to get open close to the basket and to cause opponents to take lower percentage shots. James may not be a headliner, but if he does the little things correctly, it will go a long way towards Carolina victories.