This upcoming season should be quite the intriguing one for the North Carolina Tar Heels. They find themselves as one of the youngest teams in the country, but they are also a team that is star-studded. With five McDonald's All-Americans, this year's Tar Heels seem reminiscent of the past. Four freshmen enter the program, and all look to play a prominent role in bringing the school back to worldwide prominence.
Each starting player, and a couple of the guys on the bench, brings back memories of past players. While there are no Michael Jordans or James Worthys on the team (sorry UNC fans), the young guns that front this team will look to either bring North Carolina back deep into the NCAA Tournament or fall back into the depression this program hit back in the early 2000s with Matt Doherty.
The former seems destined to happen, because the Tar Heels are like the Yankees; when doubted, they perform even better than expected. The veteran leadership (few and far between though it may be) will go a long way to helping this club perform up to its lofty expectations.
Without further ado, here are the current player comparisons to the days of old, and to players that meant a great deal to the program's success.
Not who you were expecting...
No, Bob McAdoo is not the perfect comparison for young James.
At 6'8", 223 lbs., McAdoo seems better suited being compared to the highly regarded star coming out of high school, only to find himself being overshadowed by the likes of Marvin Williams, Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams.
Both held similar frames and sizes in college, fairly slight with a solid post game. Neither player is particularly strong, but each uses his body quite wisely.
At this point in his career, Williams is the best comparison because we all know McAdoo will develop a better jumper and possesses more athleticism and explosiveness than Jawad Williams ever had, but McAdoo has yet to show his full potential in his short collegiate career.
With no question, James McAdoo will have a better career, not only in college, but as he enters the NBA as well. McAdoo's ability to run the floor and gracefully float in the air as he slams it home is what NBA scouts dream about.
As of right now, Williams is the best comparison, but as the season goes on McAdoo has a chance to reach Worthy level.
Yeah, I said it.
This comparison is probably the easiest to link together. McDonald's ability to shoot the ball and act as the jack-of-all-trades reminds me a lot of Wayne Ellington.
Although Ellington was (and will remain) the better shooter, each utilized a similar set of skills that went across the board. They each can rebound the ball and have good vision from the two spot, allowing them to dish it off when the shot isn't there.
McDonald was brought in to replace Ellington at shooting guard but has yet to replace Ellington's overall production. His freshman year, McDonald shot a measly 21 percent from three-point land but rediscovered his range as he entered his sophomore year. He shot 38 percent from three, which was just off Ellington's 40 percent from three his sophomore season.
McDonald will be counted on supremely this year, not just as a shooter but as a veteran leader as well. Will he ever exceed Ellington's production? Probably not, but this year is the time to start.
Oh Dex, where do we start?
I was going to go with Joseph Forte, but he possessed a semblance of a jumpshot. His best comparison, considering the injuries and inability to consistently shoot the ball, is Jackie Manuel.
Manuel too, was considered a pretty consistent and reliable player coming out of high school, but as soon as his collegiate career hit, he had to rely on his hustle and intangible methods to produce on the court.
Strickland's ability to hit the three in high school virtually dissipated once he entered UNC's program. Sadly, his best three-point shooting production came in his sophomore year when he shot 25 percent from the outside.
When looking at their stats, it is pretty scary. Strickland averaged 7.5 PPG his sophomore and junior year, while Manuel did close to the same his sophomore year, averaging 7.3 PPG.
Dexter enters his senior year looking for redemption. Reggie Bullock will challenge him for time on the court this upcoming season. Both deserve time,as each player has made incremental adjustments and improvements over the past couple of seasons.
Hubert will be stepping into the fold this year with Tyler Zeller and John Henson viewing the greener pastures of the NBA.
With not much productivity to account for over the past two years, Hubert is bit of an unknown as a prospect. His slender frame coupled with the ability to use his size down low is reminiscent of Ed Davis.
Well, for now, a poor man's Ed Davis.
His upside? Brendan Haywood.
Neither of those guys were big-time scorers during their college time, but each was productive at his respective position. Both Davis and Haywood reached double-digits scoring during their careers and had the chance at cracking that for rebounds as well, but they were overshadowed by the program's top talent.
Despite being considered a consensus top-3 small forward coming out of high school, Reggie Bullock has been overshadowed by the bigger names he has played with in his time at UNC. Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all exceeded expectations and played considerably well at North Carolina.
Now, with all three gone, Bullock has a chance to prove his worth and shine.
His best comparison is Rashad McCants—minus the attitude and drama.
Although McCants was productive right off the bat at UNC, Bullock has yet to get the chance to show his full ability. Bullock has better size (standing at 6'7" to McCants' 6'4") and will look to expose smaller defenders and post them up when given the opportunity.
McCants consistently shot at 40 percent from three-point land over his time, while Bullock improved over his freshman year, hitting 38 percent.
McCants entered UNC with an NBA-ready body; Bullock is not too far away.
With North Carolina looking for veteran leadership, coach Roy Williams will lean on Bullock heavily. Let's hope he remains healthy.
Roy Williams was really looking for P.J. Hairston to be a prime contributor his freshman year at UNC. Unfortunately, Hairston didn't abide.
A similar occurrence happened in Danny Green's case.
Both were widely considered top prospects leaving high school, and at close to the same size and structure, they will continue to be intertwined.
Hairston's freshman year saw him averaging 13 minutes per game, while averaging 6 PPG and 2 RPG and shooting 30 percent from the field.
Danny Green freshman year?
15 minutes per, 7.5 PPG, 4 RPG and shot 43 percent from the field.
Had Hairston received more time, his numbers would be similar, if not identical to that of Danny Green's.
Look for Hairston to step up in a big way as he enters his crucial sophomore year with the program.
Although not nearly built the same during their tenures at North Carolina, Paige comes into Chapel Hill with comparisons to Jeff Lebo.
Who, you might ask?
Lebo once set a record by dishing off 17 assists in one game. He is on North Carolina's all-time assists list at No. 8, with 580 total.
Paige was known as one of the best pure point guards to come out of Iowa in quite some time. His ballhandling skills and ability to "thread the needle" will also quickly remind fans of Kendall Marshall. Paige steps it up a notch in concerns to Marshall though, because he can shoot the lights out at times. Although streaky, he will hit quite a number of shots at the Dean Smith Center for (hopefully) years to come.
Remember the days when Vince Carter jammed it over the likes of Elton Brand?
UNC fans will be reminded of this when they see Tokoto in action this upcoming season.
An athletic freak, nearly the same as Vince Carter his freshman year, Tokoto will need polish, as he is a bit raw, but possesses the same attributes as VC.
Tokoto is a high-motor, high-energy, all-hustle player who just started playing basketball a few years ago. He is just scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unlocking his full potential—much as Carter was when he first entered Chapel Hill.
A solid rebounder and known for his ridiculous finishes at the rim, Tokoto will be a fan favorite from day one.
Poor man's John Henson.
Johnson's game all comes from his freaky athleticism. Quite the bouncy fellow, he lacks post strength and post moves but is a great shot blocker and runs the floor quite well.
Roy Williams is sure to tap into his potential, limited as it may be due to his slight frame.
Johnson resembles Henson, not only from his defensive presence, but from his good hands down low and ability to occasionally hit a short jumper.
Johnson is unlikely to see major time this season, but he will be an important cog going into the future for this top-notch program.