UNC Basketball Season Preview Series: How Much Impact Will the Freshman Have?


The North Carolina Tar Heels will rely on their freshman considerably more this upcoming season that they have in the last few seasons.  UNC will welcome point guard Marcus Paige, small forward JP Tokoto and big men Joel James and Brice Johnson this season.  With the losses of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson to the NBA they freshman are very important to the Heels success this season.

Mar 18, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams reacts after guard Kendall Marshall (5) is fouled by Creighton Bluejays forward Ethan Wragge (34) in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Jays 87-73 in the third round of the 2012 NCAA men

Head coach Roy Williams typically favors upperclassmen when it comes to playing time, especially starting roles, but this season the Heels will start at least one freshman, potentially two. Marcus Paige is slated to take over for Marshall and is the only true PG on the roster capable of leading UNCs high octane, fast break oriented attack.

James Michael McAdoo is expected to become the star of the team and take over as the top scoring threat inside, McAdoo is the only “lock” to start this year for Carolina. James and Johnson will compete with sophomore Desmond Hubert for the starting spot next to McAdoo and for playing time in the rotation.

Paige is the most important of all the freshman. Shooting guard Dexter Strickland and walk-on transfer Luke Davis are the only other options at the point, Paige has to step up and fill Marshall’s shoes or Carolina is doomed. Not only will Paige be counted on to play a big role, he will be one of the most important players on the roster from Day 1. In order for UNCs system to work, they must have solid, efficient play from the PG position and Paige’s projected backups can only be counted on for relief duty, neither is capable of running the show full time.

Hubert is a nice player who can rebound and block shots and after a summer in which he added some much needed bulk to his upper body and worked hard on expanding his offensive game, UNC could get away with him as the guy next to McAdoo. I expect all three of the big men no named McAdoo to rotate with one another in a big man by committee type of approach.

Hubert is not a player with star potential, he’s a role player and could end up being a very good one, but he needs more development. Johnson is too skinny to make much of an impact his freshman year in my view. He’s long, athletic and has a lot of skill but will need to work hard on his body before he can be counted on for a big role.

James is the big man I picture as having the best chance to step up and be a player this year of the three. James was once massively overweight, after shedding more than 60 pounds and adding muscle tone over the last year, he looks the part. James is talented enough that he was offered a scholarship despite being well over 300 pounds by a coach that requires his big men to run the floor non-stop. Now that he looks the part physically, I expect his game to continue expanding at a rapid rate.

Tokoto on the other hand is going to struggle for playing time. UNC has a stacked perimeter with Strickland, Reggie Bullock, PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald returning, the time for Tokoto to play a big role isn’t now. Roy will find a way to get the ultra athletic and oozing with potential freshman on the floor, but expect his role to be minimal.