North Carolina's Nate Britt showed up at a unique time in Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels lost Reggie Bullock to the 2013 NBA draft and, eventually, P.J. Hairston to eligibility issues. Senior Leslie McDonald was held out of the first nine games of last season. With these departures and developments, Marcus Paige went back and forth between both backcourt positions.
As a result, Britt played a much bigger role than was expected at the beginning of Carolina's 2013-14 season. He played almost 25 minutes per game during the first half of the season. But after McDonald's return, his playing time decreased, and he only logged 17 minutes per game in the back half of his freshman year.
Now, the rising sophomore from Upper Marlboro, M.D. will have to fiercely compete for minutes with incoming freshman/McDonald's All-American point guard Joel Berry.
What does the 5'11" floor leader need to do to stay in head coach Roy Williams' rotation and the Tar Heels' backcourt mix next year?
Three areas of improvement will determine how much he will be on the court in 2014-15.
To say that Britt was not much of a three-point shooting threat in his freshman season is an enormous understatement. He shot 3-of-12 (25 percent) for the whole year. He only knocked down one shot (out of three) from beyond the arc in UNC's last 15 games.
Because of Britt's hesitation to pull the trigger from three, Carolina's opponents dropped off of him and doubled Paige on the perimeter or clogged the lane.
If he wants to carve out a niche on this coming year's squad, Britt should log a lot of hours in the gym this summer, grooming his outside shot and building his confidence.
He does not need to become a dead eye from downtown. He simply needs to be good enough and assertive enough to make teams pay if they ignore him with the ball in his hands.
UNC will have plenty of scoring punch on next year's team.
Paige could be a 20-points-per-game guy. Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks are ready to have breakout season's in the lane. Junior forward J.P. Tokoto is a supreme slasher. Incoming freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson will not be bashful about taking shots when the opportunity arises.
In order to utilize all of these weapons, the Tar Heels need a steady-handed setup man, someone who will deliver the ball so that his teammates can put points on the board.
In his first collegiate season, Britt distributed 80 assists and turned the ball over 58 times. That is an unexceptional 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. In 16 games, he had as many or more turnovers than he had assists.
He showed flashes of being able to run the team and make things happen on the break. He had seven assists against Texas and a six-assist, zero-turnover outing against UNC-Wilmington.
Britt would help himself, his teammates and his team if he could become a poised and potent playmaker this coming season.
Any player in any position on this coming year's team will get extra playing time if he can consistently stop his man from scoring.
Over the years, Williams has always rewarded players who could get things done on the defensive end. This coming season will be no different. One of the places where Britt could excel as a sophomore is in becoming the Heels' best perimeter stopper.
According to his UNC bio, he was the team's "defensive player of the game eight times, the second-most on the team (Louisville, UNCG, Texas, Syracuse, 2/22 vs. Wake Forest, at NC State, Providence and Iowa State)."
Britt overcomes his lack of size with lightning-fast quickness. He has great anticipation in the passing lanes and is a menace on the ball.
Nate Britt needs to step up his game during this offseason.
The best way for him to keep a regular spot in Williams' rotation is to make sure that he improves significantly.
If he becomes a more accurate shooter, a more productive ball-handler and a defensive pest on the perimeter, Britt will still play a major role on what could be an outstanding Tar Heel team.
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