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There is no question the Tar Heels lost two great leaders in Strickland and Bullock. But I do believe there are two better leaders-in-the-making who will rise to the challenge next season.
To find out who is capable of this role, you must first ask yourself: What is it that defines a great leader?
To me, a great leader leads by example the way Bullock and Strickland did with their work ethic and team-first mentality. Those two characteristics are a must.
But there are a few other factors that must be considered when searching for the greatest of leaders.
The best leaders have an edge to them. They play with an intensity and a will to win that becomes contagious with the other players. The raging fire inside them can't be put out by mere adversity, and the scoreboard means nothing to them until the buzzer sounds.
If there are any current Tar Heels that fit that description, it's P.J. Hairston and Marcus Paige.
Nobody on the court last season played with more intensity and passion than those two guys. And nobody was more willing and able to lead a comeback or bury the clutch shot.
According to Inside Carolina, Hairston is already assuming the role. "I think P.J. is stepping up and being more of a leader already that I’ve seen in the offseason," Williams said during his Tar Heel Tour in Greensboro, N.C.
That's very good news considering Hairston was easily the most emotionally influential Tar Heel on last season's squad.
And with Paige as the floor general, that role should be assumed with him, too. There were times last season where you could see him instructing the other guys—especially during the latter stretch. But even as a point guard, it's not easy getting guys to listen when you're still in freshman diapers.
Now that he is no longer the newbie on the squad, he will be more willing to instruct, and his teammates will be more willing to listen. He will also have a better grip on everyone's duties.
There is no doubt in my mind these two stars will excel in their new roles as leaders on and off the floor.
A lot may have been lost with the departures of Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock. But this is North Carolina basketball, and there are always players ready to step up and fill the voids. With the returners and another strong recruiting class, the 2013-14 squad will be no exception to the rule.