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Saying the Tar Heels will be better at center this season probably doesn't provoke much optimism, and rightfully so. They were absolutely atrocious at the 5 in 2012-13—to the point power forward James Michael McAdoo had to play the low post.
And this is a guy that is kind of stuck between the 3 and 4 spots in terms of skill.
But this season, things are starting to look up.
Sophomore Joel James has been getting the starting nod, and has produced fairly well during his time on the floor. Over 13 minutes per contest, he is averaging four points and 4.3 rebounds. Though he still looks lost at times, he is making fewer mistakes and has shown mental toughness in shaking off the ones he does make—something that plagued the big man as a freshman.
It seems he is finally finding a comfort zone in his fifth season playing organized basketball. There is no doubt James is a work in progress, but at least we are seeing some development in the big man.
James does need to get better at positioning himself, though. He has struggled to box out and front his defender in the post, which is a little disconcerting considering his 280-pound frame and the level of competition he has faced this season.
Then there is freshman Kennedy Meeks, who has been the most impressive by far.
Instincts. Hands. Shooting touch. This kid has everything you could want out of a center except explosiveness. But he also adds passing abilities rarely seen from a 5.
Meeks is averaging 6.7 points, 5.7 boards and 0.7 assists over just 12.7 minutes per game. That's a pretty impressive stat line for a freshman.
The baby-faced big from Charlotte, N.C., just has a nose for the game that cannot be explained in words. When other guys are in the game, the paint looks jammed up. When Meeks is in, somehow he constantly ends up open down low.
And if he's not getting a bucket off a feed, he's effortlessly tapping in a missed shot. He's just... there. Always.
Desmond Hubert has looked pretty impressive in his short stints, too. He's stronger and much more aggressive on the offensive end. And there is no better center on this team in the transition game.
Unfortunately, the junior continues to fall short on the glass.
Hubert has hauled in only three rebounds in 13 minutes played this season. That's right on pace with his career average of one rebound every 4.47 minutes.
He needs to get better on the glass if he plans to pick up some serious minutes in 2013-14.
Center Production Over Last Two Seasons