North Carolina Basketball: Player-by-Player Team Preview for 2011-12

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2011

North Carolina Basketball: Player-by-Player Team Preview for 2011-12

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    After their 2010 Elite Eight loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, questions concerning who would return in 2011 were instantly abuzz in Chapel Hill.

    The loss obviously left a bitter taste in every player's mouth, and every single Tar Heel player decided to return in 2011 to make another run for North Carolina's sixth national championship.

    All of the returning players paired with a few dynamic freshman, make the Tar Heels the odds on favorites heading into the 2011 season.

    Roy Williams' squad possesses a rare blend, experience and talent. Both of which are very important ingredients for success.

    Here are the players that will be helping the Tar Heels have a successful 2011 campaign:

Kendall Marshall, PG

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    Class: Sophomore

    2010 statistics: 6.2 PPG, 6.2 APG, 2.1 RPG, 37 3P%

    When Larry Drew II left the North Carolina basketball program in early February, Kendall Marshall was handed the keys to the team as a true freshman.

    The 6'3'' pass-first lefty quickly made a name for himself as one of the best passers in the ACC, and a formidable quarterback for a North Carolina team trying to find its identity.

    Marshall continued to improve throughout the season, and while he could use some work on his shooting consistency, Marshall has the potential to continue to improve his scoring touch.

    In 2011, look for Marshall to take the next step toward becoming a complete player. His jumpshot inside the arc, and beyond the arc, should be much improved. The chemistry with his teammates should also be improved as he enters his first full season as the Tar Heels starting point guard.

    Expect big numbers in the assist department from Mr. Marshall, possibly even breaking some North Carolina records.

Dexter Strickland, SG/PG

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    Class: Junior

    2010 statistics: 7.5 PPG, 2.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 25 3P%

    Dexter Strickland is one of the more overlooked players on this North Carolina roster, but he shouldn't be.

    Strickland is an excellent athlete that can play either guard position, and is at his best when charging ahead on the fast break and making plays at the rim.

    Strickland does need some work on his jumpshot, but he is an above average defender. He uses his length and athleticism to play good on the ball defense, while also managing to deflect a lot of passes off the ball.

    Strickland, now a junior, will be expected to assume a leadership role in the Tar Heels' backcourt in 2011. His versatility, along with his experience, make him an underrated but valuable commodity for Roy Williams.

Harrison Barnes, SF

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    Class: Sophomore

    2010 statistics: 15.7 PPG, 1.7 APG, 5.8 RPG, 34 3P%

    Coming into 2010, anyone and everyone surrounding college basketball was eager to see how Harrison Barnes would perform.

    Facing a ton of pressure, Barnes would get off to a shaky start, failing to score at the rate many had expected him too.

    However, Barnes would turn things around and end his freshman season as one of the most talked about players heading into the 2011 season.

    Highlighted by a 40 point game against Clemson on March 12th, Barnes improved his scoring and his ability to get himself open when he did not have the ball.

    The insertion of a distributor like Marshall also helped Barnes get more open looks.

    Barnes has the potential to be an All-American, and a Player of the Year candidate in 2011. He will be the best of many options on offense for the Tar Heels and should continue to improve his all-around skillset.

    He is one player who truly has limitless potential.

John Henson, PF/C

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    Class: Junior

    2010 statistics: 11.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 50 FG%

    John Henson fails to look real on the court at times.

    With his freaky length and lanky frame, Henson has established himself as one of the most feared defensive presences in the college game today.

    He has the ability to block shots down low, and is a rebounding machine. One of the only players I believe, that has the potential for a triple-double including blocks instead of assists.

    Henson is a game-changer for the Tar Heels and while his offensive game could use some work, Henson is as important as anyone to this team's success.

    If Henson can improve on his numbers from the free throw line, 48% last season, Henson could become one of the more well-rounded post players in college basketball.

    Either way, you can bet the paint will be dangerous to enter as long as he is on the court for Roy Williams.

Tyler Zeller, C

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    Class: Senior

    2010 statistics: 15.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 55 FG%

    Tyler Zeller is one of two seniors on this Tar Heels team that will receive playing time, and one of the best seniors playing for anyone, anywhere else.

    Zeller, while not being overpowering in the post, has great touch and a right-handed jump hook that he seemingly never misses. He is also very fast and can get out and run the break with the North Carolina backcourt.

    On defense, Zeller is a capable shot blocker, and manages to maintain position in order to draw several charging fouls on opposing players. He may not be bulky, but Zeller is smart enough to out maneuver players in the paint.

    Zeller is the leader of this team, and will be relied upon heavily for his contributions both on the glass and scoring the basketball. He is a high character player who knows what needs to be done in order for this team to have the success they are capable of having.

James McAdoo, SF/PF

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    Class: Freshman

    2010 statistics (H.S.): 23.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 1.9 BPG

    McAdoo enters Chapel Hill with enormous upside and expectations for his freshman season.

    According to, McAdoo is a 5-star prospect, the eighth overall prospect in the 2011 class, and the third best power forward.

    According to, McAdoo is described as a well-rounded talent that loves to face up to the basket. He has a good mid-range game and rebounds well. McAdoo is also known to be a hard worker on the court and has a good attitude toward winning games and not just his individual statistics.

    Defensively, McAdoo is also solid. He uses his athleticism and hard-working attitude to steal passes, and also is a formidable shot blocker down low.

    Expect McAdoo to be the sixth man on this Tar Heels team. He is talented enough to start for anyone else in the nation, but North Carolina's experience will force McAdoo to assume a Marvin Williams-type role for the 2011 team.

    McAdoo will be looked to not only for depth, but for production as he looks to live up the hefty expectations placed upon him heading into his freshman season.

Leslie McDonald, SG

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    Class: Junior

    2010 statistics: 7.0 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 38 3P%

    A primary bench player in 2010, McDonald will look to fill the same role in 2011.

    A junior, McDonald will provide experience and three-point shooting off the bench as he gives breathers to both Marshall and Strickland in the backcourt.

    Also an above-average defender, McDonald gives the Tar Heels' backcourt versatility and depth.

    McDonald's best asset is his three-point shot. In 2010, on a team starved for three-point threats, McDonald provided one of the more consistent options. While the Tar Heels should be more of a threat as a team from the perimeter in 2011, look for McDonald to continue to be one of the better outside shooters on this squad.

    McDonald must lead by example coming off the bench for the Tar Heels. The other primary bench options are inexperienced and not necessarily used to playing secondary roles on a team, he can help those players adjust to the mentality required to be a spark off the bench.

P.J. Hairston, SG

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    Class: Freshman

    2010 statistics (H.S.): 25.6 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 4.7 APG

    According to, Hairston is a 5-star prospect, the 13th best prospect in the nation, and the fourth ranked shooting guard.

    According to, Hairston is a deadly three-point shooter. He already has the body ready for contact at a high-level of collegiate competition, and is a confident and proven winner. He needs to work on his mid-range game but his three-point shot alone will earn him minutes off the bench early for North Carolina.

    Especially for a team lacking three-point firepower in 2010, the Tar Heels have a valuable asset in P.J. Hairston. He will accompany Leslie McDonald, and Reggie Bullock, to form a solid trio of perimeter scorers coming off the bench in Chapel Hill.

    Tar Heel faithful should be very excited about what this athlete can bring to the wing for the Tar Heels, and the instant offense he can provide off the bench.

Reggie Bullock, SG

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    Class: Sophomore

    2010 statistics (27 games): 6.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 30 3P%

    Reggie Bullock entered North Carolina with a reputation as a dead-eye shooter.

    Once arriving on campus, Bullock would struggle with his shot off the bench, and would later go down with a season-ending knee injury.

    Heading into 2011, Bullock looks to be a key cog in the wheels of this team. He provides another valuable shooter off the bench, and another athlete for Roy Williams to turn to. He will allow for instant offense off of the bench, and also allow the Tar Heels offense to stay spread out. This will force defenses to spread out as well, opening up the paint for proven post players, Henson and Zeller.

    Bullock has something to prove after a disappointing, and short freshman season. If he can get his feet under him early, and become the shooter everyone expected when he entered North Carolina, then the Tar Heels will have a scary group of outside shooters for opposing teams to worry about.

Justin Watts, G/F

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    Class: Senior

    2010 statistics: 1.9 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 33 3P%

    Justin Watts may not be the most talented player on this Tar Heels roster, but he has as much heart as anyone.

    The 6'4'' Watts actually plays forward most of the time and is an excellent rebounder for his size.

    Watts will never be looked upon to shoulder the scoring load in Chapel Hill, but he is an adequate defender off of the bench.

    Watts also provides valuable senior leadership, and will lead by example both on the bench and at practice for the younger players surrounding him.

    He may not be the player that wins it all for the Tar Heels, but every team needs a glue guy.

    Justin Watts can provide some of that glue for the Tar Heel blue.

Desmond Hubert, C

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    Class: Freshman

    According to, Hubert is a 3-star prospect, the 140th prospect in the nation, and the 17th ranked center.

    According to, Hubert is one the best defensive players in the 2011 class. He is a high character player, with superior shot blocking instincts. However, he does need to work on his offensive skill set.

    Hubert may not receive very many minutes early, but if Roy Williams is not satisfied with his interior defense, he could turn to Hubert.

    He will likely be toward the end of the bench, and will be a developmental player likely in a Tar Heel uniform for three or four years. His offensive development will determine his playing time down the road.

Jackson Simmons, PF

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    Class: Freshman

    Simmons is a 3-star prospect, according to

    According to, Simmons is the ultimate competitor with a true desire to prove himself on every possession. He is a terrific rebounder and thrives in pick-and-pop situations on the offensive end of the floor.

    Simmons is a hard-nosed player with the glue guy mentality. He will get his nose dirty for Roy Williams and that goes a long way in terms of playing time.

    Like Hubert, Simmons is a project and will not be a household name by the end of 2011, but after a few years under Roy Williams tutelage, Simmons could turn into an adequate player in the Tar Heel system.

The End Result

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    Winning championships in college basketball is never a given. The regular season is long and competitive. However, if their is a favorite heading into 2011, it is the Tar Heels.

    Their blend of experience and talent should make this season a lot of fun for the players, fans, and coaches alike.

    The Tar Heels will have a target on their back all season, and while they will surely take a few knocks this team seems like they should have staying power throughout the season.