UNC Basketball Player Preview: Joel James


Mar 21, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3) and forward Joel James (42) and forward Desmond Hubert (14) react in the first half of a men’s college basketball game against the Providence Friars during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina Tar Heels forward, Joel James, is preparing to begin his junior season for head coach, Roy Williams. Having previously earned the starting role at the center position for UNC, James will most likely find himself as a backup plan in the possible case that forwards, Kennedy Meeks or Brice Johnson, become fatigued, in foul trouble, or suffer injuries.

With the rise of the other, more talented, forwards on the team, Joel James has found his role with the Tar Heels to change immensely over the last two years. James began his career at UNC as the full-time, true center of a generally small Tar Heels lineup. Paired with the now-NBA player, James-Micheal McAdoo, Joel James on the inside of the Tar Heel formation was stout enough to help win a fair amount of games early in his career. He was averaging 2.2 points per game, and 2.4 rebounds in about 10-15 minutes of playing time per game (Sports-Reference.com). While those stats are low, James was most effective as a defensive presence with his 6’10, 280-pound, solid frame.

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Last year, James found himself sharing time, and eventually backing up, talented freshman Kennedy Meeks at the center position for the Tar Heels. While he may have been riding the pine for much longer in games his sophomore season, James still managed to get quality minutes while Meeks tended to struggle with his conditioning. However, still facing reduced minutes and less playing time with the emergence of Brice Johnson later in the 2013-2014 season, James saw his stats fall with his minutes. James was previously averaging 9.5 points per 40 minutes played, but last season he dropped to 8.8 points per 40 minutes played (Sports-Reference.com). Though James may have struggled on offense, his defense continued to be the reason Roy Williams gave him a chance. Even in the biggest games, such as last season’s prime time game against the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, James won defensive player of the game against the then-ranked no. 1 team in the nation.

Dec 4, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Joel James (42) shoots over Michigan State Spartans forward Gavin Schilling (34) during the 1st half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Both injuries and talent deficiencies have kept Joel James from showing any true development since his freshman season. Because he is now a part of a stacked front court for the Tar Heels, James will be much more of a role player now than he has in his career. He will be relied on for support, advice for younger players, and quality minutes in the event that Kennedy Meeks or Brice Johnson are forced to the bench.

In addition, by looking at the talented freshman brought in by Roy Williams for this 2014-2015 season, the perimeter scoring should be far higher than last season’s totals. Therefore, the Tar Heels should be able to spread the floor effectively against opposing defenses, and open up the interior to far more one-on-one situations. In the event that Johnson or Meeks are deemed ineffective during a game, yet the guards are scoring efficiently, it will most likely be up to the experience of Joel James to offer an interior presence, and keep the opposing defense honest, and opposing coaches scratching their heads.

To get inside the thoughts (and tweets) of Joel James, you can follow @TheRealJoel0 on Twitter.