UNC Basketball: How Much Better of a Shooting Team will this Years Heels be?


Several Tar Heels came to Chapel Hill with the reputation as big time shooters. While some have enjoyed moderate success, each has yet to burst onto the scene and fulfill his potential shooting the basketball. Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston all arrived in Carolina with high expectations of adding some versatility to UNCs lineup full of dynamic athletes.

Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

When discussing the situation of teammate PJ Hairston and his struggles with his shot, Reggie Bullock had this to say.

"“P.J. is my best friend on the team, so I talk to him about everything,” Bullock said. “And I would say it is about getting enough [repetitions] up to be able to knock that shot down. I know my freshman year, I struggled at being able to knock the shot down.“I was in that same struggle that he was. I told him to keep shooting, keep getting a lot of reps up and it will start falling. You need a daily routine of getting enough shots up on your own, to be consistent.” Quote THI"

And that’s the main component in my view, opportunity. It’s easy to forget that all of these guys were the man on every single basketball team they have ever been apart of. The opportunities were endless for them, game in and game out. One of the most underestimated and least talked about obstacles of coming to a big time program like UNC is learning to adjust with fewer opportunities.

I’m not saying that opportunities are the only factor. Anybody that watched Hairston last year knows he could have benefited from trying to do more with than just stand around and hoist up jumpers. He could have used some of that size and athleticism to take the ball to the basket and create higher percentage shots.

But the fact cannot be ignored that Bullock was the fifth best starter. And that he and Hairston were fourth or fifth options all game long with stars like Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall on the court. Leslie McDonald was playing the best basketball of his life prior to his injury last season. He was set to compete with Dexter Strickland for the starting role before he was lost for the season. A seasons worth of opportunities went down the drain in an instant.

In 2012 all this changes. Gone are the big four, this team is stacked on the perimeter, but each man will get his opportunity. Bullock is assumed by many to be the teams 2012 starting small forward. A likely prediction to pan out considering his size and last seasons performance. He will have the best opportunity.

McDonald in my view has the next best chance. Roy has raved about his shooting and play last season.

"“Last year one of the [UNC] camp coaches had Leslie in his gym as a counselor,” Williams said. “He said, ‘Let’s watch Leslie shoot.’“Leslie went around and made 17 in a row. Then four or five weeks later, that coach saw Leslie had torn up his knee, and it just killed him.” Quote THI"

With Dexter Strickland a question mark in terms of how healthy he will be to start the season. McDonald and Hairston competing for the starting SG spot with Hairston having the ability to slide to SF when necessary is a good bet in my opinion.

Another huge factor in this season’s improved shooting is the PG position.  Freshman Marcus Paige is a much better shooter than Kendall Marshall.  Paige averaged over 28 points per game his senior season in high school and he can score in many different ways.  A terrific ball handler he not only creates for others, he can get to the rim and create for himself.

Paige is a very good mid-range shooter with three point range, evident at Late Night with Roy, he doesn’t need much room to get up a good shot.  His quick release will keep defenses honest.  Last season teams were able to play way off of Marshall and defend the passing lanes making it easier for them to collapse on perimeter shooters when Marshall passed the ball.  Now that teams must defend each position as a viable shooter, it will open things up for everyone on the floor.

Fundamentally all three of these players have a very good looking shot. Each excelled at the high school level amongst the top shooters in their recruiting class. They have offered glimpses, but have yet to put it together. If Roy Williams can figure out a rotation that gives each of these players the opportunities they need to shine. This could be one of UNCs best shooting teams in a long time.