North Carolina Basketball: 5 Facts Every Heels' Fan Must Know About 2014 Roster
As much as you may think you know about the 2013-14 North Carolina Tar Heels, there is always more to learn. With a little digging, you can find touching life stories and moments of true greatness on the hardwood from many players on UNC's roster.
Today, I will provide you with five facts every fan must know about their current Tar Heels.
Many of Carolina's diehard fans may have already heard some of these facts. But my hope is that everyone will at least learn one thing they didn't already know.
And some of these stories and facts may completely change your perspective on the players within these slides.
Marcus Paige Is a Better Shooter Than You May Realize
A word of caution when examining Marcus Paige: Don't get too caught up in his freshman season stats.
Paige struggled mightily through the better half of his first season at UNC. That is why he finished with a mediocre 34.4 percent from three. And when you focus solely on those numbers, his future as a shooting threat doesn't look very promising.
But season figures simply don't tell the whole story. Sometimes, it takes a little dissection to understand a player's true potential.
Through his first 23 games as a Tar Heel, Paige was just 25-of-86 from downtown—a paltry 29 percent. Then he flipped the switch in his final 12 games, burying 20 of his last 45 three-point attempts.
That wasn't an accident or mere luck.
In his prep days at Linn-Mar, drilling treys was an every day thing for Paige. He shot 40 percent behind the arc as a senior. Even better, he shot 50.8 percent from that range as a junior—when the scoring weight wasn't completely on his shoulders.
Marcus Paige can shoot.
He wasn't the first—nor will he be the last—freshman to hit a wall at the collegiate level. P.J. Hairston shot 27.3 percent from downtown his first year. As a sophomore, he bumped that number up to 39.6.
Paige will be a significant part of the Tar Heels' three-point arsenal in 2013-14.
High school stats were provided courtesy of Inside Carolina.
Marcus Paige Has Ice in His Veins
No, this article isn't entirely about Marcus Paige. But there is another little tidbit about North Carolina's floor general you may not know.
His team, trailing Kennedy, 61-52, in the 2012 sub-state finals with only 26 seconds left in regulation, Paige put on a absolute clinic. The senior point guard scored the next nine points—including two treys—to send the game to overtime.
Both of them were equally incredible.
Paige was fouled as he drilled the first three in the corner with 19 seconds to go. He would sink the and-1 to bring his team within three points.
Then Linn-Mar put on a full-court press, forcing a Kennedy turnover on the inbounds pass. Paige worked the perimeter on the ensuing possession, spun off a double-team and pulled up to bury the game-tying 22-footer.
The Lions would go on to win in double-overtime, and Paige finished with 49 of his team's 83 points. It was a game that will be attached Paige's name for the rest of his career.
“It’s just kind of what Marcus does," teammate Matt Lassen told The Gazette. "He’s an incredibly clutch player.”
Paige has already given Tar Heel fans a taste of what he is capable of with his clutch performances against Virginia Tech, Maryland and Villanova. It won't be long before we see him put a game on ice with a last-second shot.
Desmond Hubert Coninues to Overcome Obstacles
Looking at Desmond Hubert's ever-smiling face, you would never know how much he has been through in his life.
In 2007, at the age of 14, Hubert lost his single mother to a 10-year battle with cancer. Just one year before she passed, the two packed up and moved from Florida to New Jersey, so he could get to know the man who would be taking care of him the rest of the way.
That man was his uncle, Henry Jackson, who made the heartwrenching promise to look over his sister's son when she passed.
For Hubert, it was a new town, a new life and a new parental figure. He could have taken a much darker path, given his situation. But Hubert pushed forward, never changing who he was inside.
Both Jackson and basketball helped to keep him focused.
Eventually, he would become the 15th-ranked center in the country (Scout.com) and land in one of the nation's elite college basketball programs. He averaged 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks per game as a senior at New Egypt High School.
Getting there wasn't so easy, though.
“(At the beginning) he couldn’t catch a cold,” his high school coach told The Daily Tar Heel. “You’d throw a ball at him, and you’re pretty close to breaking his nose eight out of 10 times.”
Hubert would go on to total over 1,500 points, 1,000 rebounds and a whopping 750 blocks during his high school days.
But when he landed in Chapel Hill, it was another world of talent compared to the competition he faced at the small school in Jersey. During his limited minutes as a freshman, Hubert often looked lost on the floor
Many folks—myself included—saw him as a lifetime benchwarmer at Chapel Hill.
Then he worked his butt off over the summer to gain 20 pounds and improve his game. His development earned Hubert the starting nod in 18 of the the Tar Heels' first 23 games in 2012-13. Now he is recognized as the best defensive center on the roster.
For more on Desmond Hubert's touching story, you can read the original article at NJ.com.
Jackson Simmons Is a Model of Efficiency
Jackson Simmons doesn't get much recognition on a national scale. He has spent most of his Carolina career on the bench behind much more dynamic players. With the addition of Isaiah Hicks and the return of James Michael McAdoo, this is probably how he will spend the rest of his days at Chapel Hill.
But Tar Heel fans know exactly who Simmons is. He's one of those guys you can't help but to love. His basketball IQ is top-notch, he plays with heart and he is actually one of the most efficient players you will find.
He just isn't as physically or athletically gifted as the top recruits who come through Chapel Hill.
With all the shifting last season, fans got their best look at the sophomore power forward, as he averaged 7.3 minutes per game. And he did not disappoint.
Simmons led the team with a field-goal percentage of 65.8 and only coughed up six turnovers in his 234 minutes of action. Considering how rare a dunk is from him, that's pretty impressive.
That can easily be written off as him not taking enough shots to hurt his percentage, though. He only had 38 attempts on the season.
However, if you look back to his senior year at Smokey Mountain High School, this was no anomaly.
His 25.4 points and 16.9 boards were both pretty impressive. But his shooting percentage was phenomenal.
Simmons was 234-of-362 from the floor during his final season of prep basketball. That works out to an incredible 64.6 percent.
It's almost a shame he went to North Carolina. Simmons could be very solid starter in a lesser conference.
High School stats were provided courtesy of Inside Carolina.
Isaiah Hicks Is a One-Man Wrecking Crew
Isaiah Hicks put up some really impressive numbers during his senior season at Webb High School in Oxford, N.C. He averaged 22.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.6 blocks, 1.8 steals and 1.3 assists per game.
With those stats, it's easy to see why he was ranked No. 18 in his class (ESPN 100). But those numbers pale in comparison to what he was able to do in the state championship.
In fact, it may be considered one of the greatest championship performances of all time.
In a 73-70 overtime victory, Hicks put up 34 points, 30 rebounds, seven blocks, one steal and one assist. He was 13-of-21 from the floor, 8-of-10 at the free-throw line and 10 of his 30 rebounds were on the offensive end.
With that performance, the power forward capped off his stellar prep career with a state title, an MVP trophy and the state record for the most rebounds in a title game. That record was formerly held by the Miami Hurricanes' big man, Reggie Johnson (28).
With all the depth at the 4 and 5 positions at North Carolina, Hicks may not get a lot of playing time during his freshman season. But it won't be long before this rising star begins taking over games in Carolina blue.