UNC Basketball Season Preview Series: Is Interior Depth an Issue?


The North Carolina Tar Heels took a big hit with the losses of Tyler Zeller and John Henson to the NBA Draft this season.  UNC will rely on sophomore James Michael McAdoo to become a star this season in the post.  Perhaps the biggest question mark heading into the season will be who will step up beside McAdoo for the Tar Heels.

Oct, 28, 2011; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Desmond Hubert (14) shoots in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated UNC Pembroke Braves 100-58 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

UNC has two incoming freshman in Joel James and Brice Johnson along with sophomore Desmond Hubert who will compete for a starting spot and playing time in the rotation. This is the first in many season the Tar Heels have faced questions about their interior. UNC has gone from the undisputed top team in the country inside, to one riddled with doubt. How will they handle it?

Let’s take a quick look at the candidates:
A lot of the answer to that question will rely on the freshman combination of James and Johnson. Joel James C 4 stars 6-10, 265 pounds Riviera Beach, FL Dywer. James may be lighter than the listed 280lbs right now he has dropped more than 50lbs the last time he was checked. James is a dominate defender and rebounding machine. His offensive game, while it needs some work has come a long way his senior season.

Brice Johnson PF 4 stars 6-9, 200 Cordova, SC Edisto Johnson averaged 25.4 points, 14.3 rebounds, 8.3 blocks and three assists per game this past season. A monster defensively, Johnson is the type of player you can plug into the lineup and expect him to make an immediate impact on that end of the floor. A big time rebounder who has worked hard to get his weight down and has improved tremendously on the offensive end in his senior season. He needs to add bulk to his upper body, resembles John Henson a lot though he’s not as long. Has a decent post up game but runs the risk of getting pushed around inside with his skinny frame.

Desmond Hubert is considered by most as being a role player at best. A three star player coming out of high school, he didn’t receive much attention last season playing behind Henson, Zeller and McAdoo. Hubert is a shot blocker and a good rebounder who desperately needed to gain some bulk this summer. And he has done just that this summer, he now at least looks the part, physically. I firmly believe he is being underestimated and can absolutely make a positive impact on the Tar Heels this season with regular playing time.

My verdict, I expect McAdoo who was recently named as a first team All-American, a bill I think he will live up to as one of the top players in the country. I also think the Tar Heels will be just fine with a combination of James/Johnson and Hubert rotating at the other spot.

My favorite of the three in the short term is Joel James. He’s the most physically ready and has the best mix on both ends of the floor. Johnson is the best prospect in the long term, but I just don’t see him doing much in the post at 200 pounds as a freshman. Hubert will be a lot better than many think, but will never be a superstar, or anything close.

UNC will not be one of the best inside like years past, but I don’t see it being a big weakness for the team during the 2012-13 season.