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UNC Basketball: Breaking Down Every Tar Heel's Role in 2014

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2013

UNC Basketball: Breaking Down Every Tar Heel's Role in 2014

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    The 2014 North Carolina Tar Heels will be loaded with talent, including two of the ACC's top five returning scorers in James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.

    But great teams aren't simply comprised of a couple superstars and 11 do-nothings. Everyone has a primary role to play.

    Fortunately, Roy Williams has put together an outstanding group of players at UNC.

    Today we're breaking down every Tar Heel's role for the 2013-14 season, listed in order of importance. If everyone contributes the way they are expected, this could be one of the deepest teams we've seen in a while.

    And Carolina just might become a legitimate title contender once again.

     

13. Luke Davis: Emergency Response

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    With Marcus Paige and Nate Britt ahead of him at the point, we probably won't see much of Luke Davis. Last season, he was in a similar situation and only logged 82 minutes.

    If Davis is needed in an emergency situation, he will be able to step in and take control of the game. Consider him a better Stilman White.

    But if this team stays away from the injury bug, he'll only come in to finish blowouts.

12. Kennedy Meeks: The Steady Hand

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    Kennedy Meeks falling this far back only speaks to the level of depth on the 2013-14 roster. It is not an indication of his skill.

    In fact, Meeks may be the guy Roy calls on when the posts are struggling. He isn't nearly as athletic as the other centers, Desmond Hubert and Joel James, but he is the smarter player.

    Meeks knows his position well, has extremely soft hands and can spread the floor with his shooting range. On top of that, he'll launch an outlet pass on the break as fast and accurate as any of the point guards on the roster.

    But he is also a freshman, with a junior (Hubert) and a sophomore (James) to battle for playing time. His lack of explosion—along with the usual adjustment period for freshmen—will likely reduce his effectiveness on the boards and in the paint.

    But he could be the steady hand Roy can call on at the 5.

     

     

11. Jackson Simmons: The Example

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    Jackson Simmons will be another victim of Carolina's depth. The Tar Heels are crowded at power forward with James Michael McAdoo, Brice Johnson and newcomer Isaiah Hicks.

    It's a shame, too.

    Like Meeks, Simmons is the smartest player on the team at his position. He doesn't have the athleticism or offensive firepower of the other three, but he rarely makes mistakes.

    In fact, it seems he is always in the right place at the right time. That's a testament to his smarts and his hustle.

    Simmons is the perfect example for everyone on this team when they start slacking. Coach Williams doesn't like his guys taking plays off, and he'll be more than happy to put Simmons in there to show them how it's done.

10. Desmond Hubert: Swat Patrol

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    Desmond Hubert could very well end up the starting center for North Carolina next season. But James has more game and girth, and should improve tremendously over the summer.

    Hubert will really have to step up his game on the offensive end to outplay the big man. But if James doesn't have the endurance for Carolina's up-and-down game, we could at least see an even split in minutes.

    No matter how it plays out, Hubert will be counted on to defend the paint when he's on the floor. That, he does very well.

    Using smart angles and arm length to his advantage, Hubert averaged 0.8 blocks per game over just 9.4 minutes of action last year. He also swiped eight steals on the season, which isn't too shabby for a center playing that little.

    Expect him to be even better next year. If things get shaky in the defensive paint, Coach Williams will call on Hubert to sort out the mess—and send a few shots into the stands.

9. Nate Britt: The Accelerator

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    Fans are going to fall in love with Nate Britt faster than he runs the floor. He doesn't have the stocky frame of Ty Lawson, but he certainly has the speed.

    And turning up the pace is exactly what Britt will be asked to do. He can provide the punishing transition game that led the 2009 team to a dominant national title run.

    With Paige's shooting ability and experience, there's no questioning who the starting point guard will be here. But Paige will probably be asked to slide to the 2 on occasion, allowing both point guards to get in the game.

    Between that and spelling Paige, Britt should log a nice chunk of minutes as a freshman. And the transition game should be in full swing with him on the floor.

     

8: Isaiah Hicks: The Hustler

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    Isaiah Hicks is already making his presence felt in his short time at Chapel Hill. Just about every player in the summer interviews talked about how impressed they were with him.

    That should be no surprise.

    Hicks is renowned for his motor and defensive prowess. He's also an excellent shot-blocker—perhaps even better than Hubert.

    His offensive game isn't quite as polished as Johnson's, though. And given the fact Hicks is a freshman, Johnson will probably get in the game first.

    But his high activity provides opportunities for easy buckets, and he's a far better ball-handler than Johnson. It's going to be hard for Roy to keep this kid on the bench.

    Hicks is going to be that guy who always comes in to make the big plays, and you just wish there was room for him to stay on the floor.

7. J.P. Tokoto: The Secret Weapon

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    J.P. Tokoto isn't getting a lot of hype heading into the 2013-14 season. He didn't shoot well beyond 17 feet, and he didn't play enough to have eye-opening stats.

    But he is much better than people realize.

    When Leslie McDonald was out and Tokoto was getting consistent minutes, he looked like one of the top defenders on the floor. He did make a few key mistakes here and there, but that is to be expected of a freshman.

    Otherwise, he was a lockdown one-on-one defender with his quickness and length. He's only going to get better with time, too.

    Tokoto is also another high-activity guy, and we saw that with his rebounding efforts and monstrous putback jams. This kid is a playmaker, and he is going to impact the game whether he nails a jumper or not.

    And don't think he won't improve in that area over the summer. He has been going to workouts early to improve his jumper and has spent a lot of time with assistant coach Hubert Davis.

    Tokoto will be Roy's secret weapon.

6. Brice Johnson: The Sixth Man

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    There is a lot of debate over which player will be the sixth man, and reasonably so. Coach Williams has a lot of options.

    But Brice Johnson seems to be separating himself from the rest of the pack with his scoring prowess this summer. He is more aggressive, and he's getting more comfortable with his jump shot.

    In fact, he's actually having to play the 3 a lot this summer because of the plethora of posts in Chapel Hill—and the severe lack of wings. That's only going to help him get more playing time if he becomes efficient at small forward.

    Easy B can certainly put the ball in the hole at either position; he'll just have to prove he can defend the smaller, faster wings.

    It was frustrating at times watching Johnson sit on the bench last season when the Tar Heels were struggling on offense. Until his minutes were cut with the small lineup Roy went to, Johnson was the most efficient scorer on the squad.

    He'll still be sitting behind McAdoo in the power forward rotation, but he's going to see a lot more of the hardwood than he did last season.

5. Joel James: The Bully

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    The college game was a tough adjustment for Joel James last season. He lost his confidence, his hands and wasn't nearly as physical as he was in prep.

    Now he's a year in and has gotten the opportunity to work with former Tar Heels Rasheed Wallace and Marvin Williams over the summer.

    James won't be a finished product as a sophomore by any means, but he's going to be a pretty darn good center in 2013-14. And his Downy-soft shooting touch will provide plenty of offense to go with the other weapons on the floor.

    With his 6'10", 280-pound frame, he will also be the bully in the middle Roy Williams has been missing. It will only taking a couple of run-ins with this brick wall before opponents become hesitant about taking it to the rack.

    Striking fear in the heart of opponents will be his primary role on this squad.

4. Leslie McDonald: The Shooter

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    Leslie McDonald was a bit of a disappointment last season. He finished up his junior campaign shooting just 35.9 percent from downtown.

    It was his first time back from an ACL tear that forced him to miss the entire 2011-12 season. As a sophomore the season before, he drilled 38.1 percent of his threes.

    McDonald is a much better shooter than he showed last season—well, the second half of the season. Before he was suspended in January, he was shooting over 40 percent from three.

    That's about where he is expected to be as a fifth-year senior.

    McDonald will also impact a lot of categories with his rebounding, passing and defense. But his greatest responsibility will be burying those open treys.

    With better post play and an improved Paige, McDonald will have a lot of opportunities to make up for the threes he clanked at the end of last season.

3. Marcus Paige: The Glue Guy

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    Prepare yourselves for a whole new Marcus Paige in 2013-14. It's hard to get guys to listen to a freshman point guard barking out orders, but that's what point guards do. They have to be an extension of the coach on the floor.

    Paige was a little uneasy about being that guy as a freshman, but now he has everyone's respect. And he knows the system well enough to tell the guys what they're doing wrong.

    He can actually be a true floor general.

    Paige will also be a much better shooter than he was last season. It seemed like the frustration of learning the system and the college game took him out of his comfort zone on offense.

    As the season progressed, he became a more efficient jump shooter and was willing to get in the paint and drop the floaters he did in prep.

    Paige will be the glue guy this season. McAdoo and Hairston will be the primary weapons on offense, but he will hold it all together. And he will be the one who keeps everyone in check.

    Without Paige, Carolina's offense is just a nice car with a bad transmission.

     

2. James Michael McAdoo: The Scorer

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    Last season, James Michael McAdoo finished just behind P.J. Hairston, scoring 14.4 point per game. But he could have done a lot more damage if he was more efficient.

    McAdoo only shot 44.5 percent from the floor last season.

    If he shot 50 percent—the standard minimum for posts—he would have averaged 17.9 points per game. And if he shot at least 70 percent from the free-throw line, that number goes up to 18.4.

    Improvement in those areas is McAdoo's primary focus in the offseason.

    Last season was a reality check for the sophomore. The hype led him to believe his success would magically carry on as a full-time starter.

    Now he knows he actually has to develop a post game to become more efficient. His face-up game is pretty good, but he was constantly driving into double- and triple-teams. In turn, he forced up a lot of wild shots he never should have attempted.

    McAdoo will be a much more complete player in 2013-14, and you can expect him to be much closer to the 18.4 points he should have been scoring last season.

1. P.J. Hairston: The Playmaker

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    P.J. Hairston's summer saga is still far from over, and we have yet to find out what his punishment will be. Until then, we have to assume he will be starting for the Tar Heels.

    And if he is, he will be the deadliest player on the squad.

    As a starter, Hairston averaged over 18 points per contest—and that was without a mid-range game. He was either draining deep threes or taking it straight to the rack.

    A more evolved Hairston is expected to hit the floor in 2013-14, and that would be very troubling news for anyone trying to defend the rising star.

    But with Hairston, it isn't even just about scoring. He makes big-time plays on both ends of the floor.

    He always seems to come up with a timely block, steal or rebound. He isn't quite as good a defender as Reggie Bullock was, but Hairston has a way of making guys pay for their mistakes.

    Hairston is also the emotional leader of the team, and the spark he provided in that area was blatantly obvious every time he hit the floor.

    P.J. Hairston is simply the greatest playmaker on the squad, and he will be the one who puts the team over the top—if he is allowed to play.

     

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