UNC Basketball: Revisiting The Question, Who’s The Heels Best Player


Earlier in the season I did a column and posed this question to Tar Heel nation.  Who’s the best player for UNC?  Now that the regular season is over, it’s time to revisit that question.  As I stated in the last column, basketball has become a sport of the superstar.  Most teams are lucky to claim just one such player on their roster.  The top programs in the nation can sometimes stake claim to two or more superstars.  The North Carolina Tar Heels roster can legitimately call four of its players, superstars.  In my last column, I went with John Henson (click HERE to view the previous column).  Did that opinion hold true?

We all know who was supposed to be UNCs best player coming into the season.  Harrison Barnes the sophomore from Ames Iowa, the reigning two-time Pre-Season All American.  Barnes is probably the most talented player, but is he the best?  John Henson, the best shot blocker in college basketball now brings an offensive game to the table.  And the old rock Tyler Zeller, started out slowly but has been the Tar Heels rock in many contests this season with his consistent play.  Z has emerged as a top candidate for ACC Player of the Year.

Let’s break down the candidates and let you decided who the Heels real best player is.

Harrison Barnes: Barnes came into this season in almost a no-win situation.  As the first sophomore, two-time preseason All-American in college basketball history.  Anything less than the national player of the year award would satisfy.  To his credit, Barnes overall game has improved on both ends of the floor.  He’s improved his perimeter defense, especially since the Dexter Strickland injury.  Offensively Barnes has a much more efficient game this season.  He relies a lot less on the three point shot, instead concentrating on creating higher percentage shots.  The result has been a higher field goal percentage and a more rounded overall game.  What Barnes hasn’t done is take that next step.  He is not the All-American we all thought he’d be and has yet to fully dominate a game.  Harrison has also disappeared for long stretches in far too many games to be considered the Tar Heels best player.

John Henson: Last time I picked Henson, and it’s still pretty close this time.  Henson has been brilliant this season and exceeded almost everyone’s expectations of him.  Known as just a defensive player and outstanding rebounder, he has blossomed offensively in his junior season.  He’s refined his mid range jumper and now shoots it with confidence.  He’s developed a nice repertoire of post moves, deadly turn around hook shots with both hands.  He’s even improved defensively, this year he’s been able to stay out of foul trouble while still improving his blocked shot numbers.   He really has become a more reliable player than Barnes.  You can pencil in Henson for at least 9-10 rebounds and 2-4 blocked shots at a bare minimum.

Kendall Marshall: Marshall set Carolinas single season all time record for assists, with a full game left on the schedule.  As a sophomore it is truly amazing that he is already the best passer in the nation.  He truly is the one irreplaceable player on UNCs roster.  But for all his brilliance distributing the ball, Marshall’s weaknesses are far too exposed for the honor of top Heel.   Marshall is by no means a scorer averaging a mere seven points per game.  Carolina doesn’t necessarily need him to score much, but they need him to have a respectable jump shot.  And at this point in his career, Kendall hasn’t been able to shoot the ball well enough for teams to even respect his shot enough to defend him.  His shooting weakness inhibits the half court offense, Marshall’s a true floor general and imperative to the success of his team.  But he’s not the best either.

Tyler Zeller:  In a forum like this I cannot begin to fully explain the story of Tyler Zellers senior season.  Z has been huge for Carolina all season long.  After a slower than expected start to the season that had some calling the seven footer soft.  Zeller has been a monster on both ends of the floor and on the glass.  Almost an automatic double-double night in and night out, Zeller has been the leader on the court Harrison Barnes was supposed to be.  It has been Zeller who has played the most consistent basketball all season long.  Much of the defensive credit inside is given to John Henson.  But it has been Zeller who has won the most defensive player of the game awards for the Tar Heels coaching staff this season.  Z is reliable on all facets of the game.  A fantastic post player with a nice mid range shot that knocks down his free throws.  He plays strong individual and help defense and find another big man that runs the court like him because I can’t (his brother Cody is real close though).

The Verdict: Big Z has proved to be the leader of this team by establishing himself as not on the rock, but the best player and MVP of the Tar Heels.

Vote in our weekly fan poll.  I’m going with Tyler Zeller, who you got?

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