The North Carolina Tar Heels held their annual Media Day last week, finally giving the basketball-thirsty UNC fans something to get hyped up about. With so much media attention on the negatives this summer, it's a relief for the fanbase to start talking positives.
And now that we're in the short stretch before the Tar Heels hit the hardwood once again, it's time to lay down some predictions. There will be more to come, but we're starting today with the predictions for the Tar Heels' annual team awards.
Every April, North Carolina holds an awards banquet for the basketball team. There, they hand out a plethora of awards for everything from academics to scoring. Feeling they left out one, I have even recommended a new award to be handed out at the completion of the 2013-14 season.
Burgess McSwain Scholar-Athlete Award: Marcus Paige
John Lotz Team Captain Award: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, James Michael McAdoo
Dick Baddour Senior Awards: Dexter Strickland, Frank Tanner
Marvin Williams Award: Jackson Simmons
Danny Green Award: P.J. Hairston
George Lynch Award: Marcus Paige
Dean Smith Most Valuable Player Award: Reggie Bullock
Tyler Hansbrough Award: P.J. Hairston
Brad Daugherty Award: Brice Johnson
Hubert Davis Award: Reggie Bullock
Billy Cunningham Award: James Michael McAdoo
Brendan Haywood Award: Desmond Hubert
Kendall Marshall Award: Dexter Strickland
This award was named after Burgess McSwain, who was a long-time academic adviser for the UNC basketball program until her passing in 2004. She was widely respected in the community and was considered the "team mother."
Marcus Paige was last season's recipient of the Burgess McSwain Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and it's doubtful anyone will take the title from him this season.
Paige graduated from high school with a 4.07 GPA, and it would appear he hasn't swayed since arriving in Chapel Hill. The rising sophomore didn't even take a break from academics in the offseason, completing both summer sessions.
Paige also put ESPN's Doug Gottlieb in his place on the academic front.
There are athletes that take academics seriously so it's not fair to generalize and say that no player could get into a school— Marcus Paige (@marcuspaige5) August 10, 2013
There was more where that came from, too. What's not to love about this kid?
The Team Captain Award is named ofter the late John Lotz, who was an assistant under Dean Smith for eight seasons before becoming the head coach of the Florida Gators. He later came back to Chapel Hill to serve as an assistant athletic director and directed UNC's community outreach program.
Team captains this season will be Marcus Paige, James Michael McAdoo and likely Desmond Hubert.
The Senior Award was named after former athletic director Dick Baddour. He began working at North Carolina in 1967 as the assistant dean of men. In 1997, Baddour took over as the athletic director and held that title until bowing out in 2011, following the scandal that rocked the Tar Heels' football program.
Baddour was also responsible for bringing Roy Williams from Kansas to head up the basketball team.
Leslie McDonald is the lone senior scholarship player on this year's squad. Walk-ons Denzel Robinson and James Manor will also be playing their final season in Chapel Hill.
The Marvin Williams Carolina Way Award goes to the player who best exemplifies playing hard, being unselfish and thinking of the team first. Williams helped North Carolina win a title in 2004-05. He only played that one season before jumping to the NBA, but he is a regular in Chapel Hill during the summer months, helping current Tar Heels improve their games.
Williams averaged 11.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals over 22.2 minutes per game. He also shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 84.7 percent from the free-throw line and was 19-of-44 from three.
Jackson Simmons was last year's recipient, and it's tough to imagine anyone dethroning him this season. Nobody plays harder and is more unselfish than the rising junior. Freshman Isaiah Hicks could land in that category if he gets enough playing time.
One would assume Hicks will have more playing time, but you just never know. Whichever player logs the most minutes will probably be the winner here.
The Danny Green Award is handed to the most improved player. Green struggled during his first two years at North Carolina but really broke out during his junior and senior seasons. He was a major piece of the puzzle in the Tar Heels' 2009 championship.
That season, Green averaged 13.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks over 27.4 minutes per game. That's a loaded stat sheet if I've ever seen one. He also shot 47.1 percent from the floor, 41.8 percent from three and 85.2 percent from the free-throw line.
If Joel James develops enough this offseason and sheds that lack of confidence as a freshman, he should be the leading candidate for the most improved player on the squad. Even through his struggles, you could see his potential as a premier center in the ACC.
J.P. Tokoto may also be a candidate for the award if he becomes more effective offensively. However, James has further to go in terms of improvement.
This could be a breakout season for the big man.
The George Lynch Award goes out to the team's best defensive player. Lynch helped the Tar Heels to a title back in 1993 with his defensive prowess and relentless rebounding efforts.
That season, Lynch averaged 14.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game. He still ranks second and third, respectively, in rebounds and steals on UNC's all-time list.
Marcus Paige was last year's winner, and he will continue to improve as a sophomore. He could still be the best defender on the squad in 2013-14.
But I believe Paige will be landing enough awards to give this one to fellow sophomore J.P. Tokoto. For a freshman with sparse playing time, he really showed his knack for defense. He's so long, springy and quick, it was tough for opposing players to get by him in one-on-one situations.
There is no doubt he made some mistakes—especially with team defense—but he has a massive ceiling on this end of the floor. Over 302 minutes of action last season, Tokoto compiled 59 rebounds, 17 steals and five blocks.
The man the Most Valuable Player Award was named after needs no introduction. It's fitting the MVP was named after Dean Smith as he is easily the most valuable person to ever set foot on the Chapel Hill campus.
Dean Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, leading the team to two national titles and 879 wins. As great as he was on the floor, he was even better off it. This year, President Obama awarded Coach Smith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Everyone who loves college and ACC basketball and the University of North Carolina is indebted to him,” Coach Williams said in a statement, according to the News & Observer. "But more than basketball, it was his social conscience that has left even greater marks on our society and will be paying dividends for generations.”
This could be a toss up between Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo, but it will more than likely land in the arms the junior power forward.
McAdoo had a stellar statistical season last year, averaging 14.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. What's really scary is that the Mac Attack still has plenty of room for improvement. If he develops a post game, improves his free throws and cuts out the mistakes, he could become a candidate for the ACC POY.
If he lands on that list, he'll have the team MVP in the bag.
Moving into the statistical awards, the Tyler Hansbrough Award is given to the player that scores the most points in a season. Hansbrough led the team in scoring all four years he was in Chapel Hill. He is also UNC's all time leader in points (2,872), points in the NCAA tournament (325) and 20-point games (78), which is also an ACC record.
Hansbrough helped hoist a title in 2009.
P.J. Hairston was last season's recipient, and I don't see that changing. Though McAdoo should improve markedly, Hairston just scores in bunches.
Hairston didn't get in the starting lineup until late in the season, but he made the best of his 14 starts, averaging 18 points per game. He had six 20-point games in that span, including a personal best 29 points at Virginia.
With all the extra running he had to do this summer, Hairston should be in the best shape of his life. And if he adds a mid-range game, he will be a constant menace to opposing defenses.
Hairston has something to prove, and I wouldn't want to be the guy standing in his way.
The Tar Heel with the highest field-goal percentage will be handed the Brad Daugherty Award. Daugherty played for North Carolina from 1982 to 1986 and was one of the most efficient shooters in the history of the program.
For his career, Daugherty buried 62 percent of his attempts. As a senior in 1985-86, his field-goal percentage was an eye-popping 64.8.
Brice Johnson earned this award as a freshman last season. And the way he started last season, there is little doubt he'll be even better in 2013-14.
Johnson finished the season at 51.1 percent, but he was even more automatic before his playing time was reduced with the small lineup. The freshman shot 63 percent from the floor in his first 15 games.
They don't call him "Easy B" (Easy Buckets) for nothing.
The Hubert Davis Award goes to the player with the highest three-point percentage. Before becoming an assistant to Coach Williams, Davis was a lights-out shooter in his days with the Tar Heels. He has the highest career three-point percentage in the history of the program at 43.5.
Davis is also third on the NBA's all-time list at 44.1 percent.
P.J. Hairston was last year's recipient and the obvious front-runner for the honor this season. But I'm looking for the underdog to step it up and take the title from Hairston.
Marcus Paige finished last season with a mediocre three-point percentage of 34.4. Season statistics don't tell the whole story, though. Paige was in a major shooting slump through most of his freshman campaign, but he really turned it on at the end.
Paige was 20-of-46 from downtown in his final 13 games of the season.
Knowing he is a much better shooter than his season statistics would indicate and the fact that he is much more selective than Hairston, it's reasonable to think Paige could snatch this award from the junior.
The Shammond Williams Award goes out to the player with the highest free-throw percentage on the squad. Williams owns the Carolina record for the highest free-throw percentage in a season (91.1) and career (84.9).
Williams is another summer regular in Chapel Hill, working with the current Tar Heels to develop their games.
Marcus Paige snatched up this award last season. Despite his shooting woes, he still managed to shoot 83.6 percent from the free-throw line as a freshman. Expect those numbers to improve throughout his career.
He might even challenge Williams for the record books one day.
When it came to rebounding—and hustle plays in general—Billy Cunningham was a man amongst boys. Cunningham played in Chapel Hill from 1962 to 1965, and it didn't take long for him to land in the record books.
As a freshman, Cunningham pulled in 16.1 rebounds per game, which still remains at the top of the list today. He also owns the records for the highest career average (15.4) and the most games with double-figures in rebounds for both a season (21) and career (61).
If Joel James starts this season, he'll probably give James Michael McAdoo a run for his money. But James would still probably play fewer minutes than the junior forward, and I expect McAdoo to be more active and aggressive in every facet of his game.
McAdoo hauled in 7.3 rebounds per game last season, even through back problems and having to play an undersized center role in the final 13 games. McAdoo has the potential to average a double-double this year.
The player with the most blocks this season will be handed the Brendan Haywood Award. Haywood, who played with the Tar Heels from 1997 to 2001, is the program's leader for blocks in a game (10), most in a season (120) and most in a career (304).
Desmond Hubert led the team with 30 blocks last season, and he'll probably still be the best shot-blocker on the squad next season. However, he probably won't see nearly as many minutes as Brice Johnson, who finished with 19 as a freshman.
Johnson has also been working on his defense this summer. He was an outstanding shot-blocker in high school, and now that he understands the defensive scheme a little better, he should be able to move more fluidly.
Expect a lot of swatting from the sophomore.
The Kendall Marshall Award will go to the player with the highest assist-to-turnover ratio. In just two seasons with Carolina, Marshall became the assist king. He owns the title for most assists in a season (351); the highest season (9.8) and career average (8.0); and, most importantly, the highest assist-to-turnover ratio for a season (3.48) and career (3.01).
There is a chance freshman Nate Britt will challenge Marcus Paige for this one, depending on how much he plays. But this award, for now, is Paige's to lose.
His assist-to-turnover ratio wasn't too shabby for a freshman at 1.87, and that was also through some struggles. The offense should be improved this season with the development of the returners, giving Paige more assist opportunities.
And his sophomore smarts should keep the turnovers down.
The Lawson-Phelps Award isn't a real award yet, but Carolina added a few more last season. So, why not one more? Plus, steals were completely left out of the statistical awards, which is a downright shame.
So why Lawson-Phelps?
For one, I couldn't decide on which legendary burglar to name the award after. Ty Lawson and Derrick Phelps were both amazing when it came to picking pockets. They also share just about every steal record at North Carolina.
Phelps played at Carolina from 1990 to 1994, piling up a record 247 steals over that span. He also has the record for most steals in a game with nine.
Lawson holds the record for the most steals in an NCAA tournament game, snatching eight from the Michigan State Spartans in the 2009 championship. Lawson averaged 2.1 steals per game that season, finishing his Carolina career with 184. Had he played his senior season, he may have challenged Phelps for the career record.
Last season, James Michael McAdoo would have taken home this award; he led the team with 1.5 steals per game. He'll likely up that average a bit as a junior, but there is another guy quickly catching up in that category.
Paige finished up right behind McAdoo with 1.4 steals per game last season. Over his last 13 games, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, including a career-high of five in the loss to Kansas.
I really believe Paige would take home this award, too, if they decide to run with my idea. Six out of 15 awards would be pretty impressive, and the sophomore floor general is more than capable of achieving that.
Can't we just start the season already?