UNC Basketball: the Revolving Door of Unlikely Tar Heel Heroes

Rollin Yeatts@@TSBRollinFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, NC - FEBRUARY 20:  Kennedy Meeks #3 and Marcus Paige #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a win over the Duke Blue Devils at the Dean Smith Center on February 20, 2014 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 74-66.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The North Carolina Tar Heels have once again stunned everyone that doubted them with a dramatic win over the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils, resulting in a court-storming frenzy and a massive celebration on Franklin Street.

Critics can say what they want about UNC's 2013-14 squad, but this team just gets it done.

Yes, these Tar Heels are young. No, there isn't one player that is truly dominant night in and night out. And no, there probably isn't a 2014 lottery pick on this team, even if James Michael McAdoo chooses to forgo his final year of eligibility at Chapel Hill.

But these kids have heart. And with every game, it seems there is another hero being introduced to Tar Heel Nation.

Maybe other basketball fans across the country who are looking at the box score right now will overlook Desmond Hubert's contributions. He did only have two points, five rebounds and one block, after all.

Tar Heel fans know what he did.

There is no question Hubert energized this team with his monster putback jam that was quickly followed by a block on the other end. Three of his five rebounds were off the offensive glass.

The center mostly rides the pine behind Kennedy Meeks and Joel James, averaging just 5.5 minutes a game. Last night, against the Tar Heels' greatest rival, he played the best 11 minutes of his junior season.

Then there was freshman point guard Nate Britt, who only scored six points in 13 minutes on 0-of-2 shooting from the floor. But who was there in the clutch?

Young No. 0.

With under a minute to go and the game on the line, Britt sank all four of his free throws to hold the lead for the Tar Heels. He did the same against Florida State in the previous game, knocking down two in a row with 17 seconds to play, pushing the lead to six.

Then there was Leslie McDonald, who definitely won't be overlooked on the stat sheet. In the final game at home against Duke for the fifth-year senior, he may have played the best game of his Carolina career. McDonald produced 21 points, four rebounds, one assist and one block.

The most impressive part was the fact that only three of those points came behind the arc. McDonald was slashing, posting up and getting out in transition. He was 9-of-12 from the floor, and all three of those misses were from downtown—his only make from that range was the first shot of the game.

Feb 20, 2014; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Leslie McDonald (2) shoots as Duke Blue Devils guard Quinn Cook (2) defends. The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Devils 74-66 at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sp
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

"I’ve been so [about] the 3-point line and trying to get my threes off that I’ve been neglecting my mid-range game and driving to the basket, so I wanted to do something new that not a lot of teams have seen,” McDonald told reporters after the game, according to Inside Carolina.

It was an absolutely phenomenal performance from McDonald—and one that was completely unexpected. He was just 23-of-63 (36.5 percent) in the seven games prior.

That reminds me of the FSU game once again. McAdoo, who had been a major cog in the Tar Heels' winning streak, was only able to muster 13 minutes because of foul trouble that started very early in the game. He didn't score a single point that night.

But there was Meeks, ready to pick up the pieces. The freshman big scored a career-high 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting. He also hauled in seven boards and blocked two shots.

Meeks hadn't reached double digits in the scoring column since he put up 11 against Clemson on Jan. 26. There he was, three weeks later, dropping a 23-spot on FSU when his teammates needed him the most.

Sometimes it shows in the stat column, sometimes you have to see it with your own two eyes. But it seems each and every night during this now eight-game winning streak, another Tar Heel steps up and becomes an unlikely hero.

Against Duke, many made significant contributions.

We've come to expect Marcus Paige to be clutch, just as he was last night. We expect J.P. Tokoto to show off his crazy athleticism and also be the best defender on the floor—essentially sealing the win after picking Quinn Cook's pocket with 31 seconds to go. Brice Johnson is going to score points and shine glass. McAdoo is going to be the emotional leader, stay active and make some big plays.

But we also expect Paige and McAdoo to score the bulk of the points. When they don't, there is always another Tar Heel ready and waiting to take that baton and run with it.

Isn't that what being a team is all about?

Watch complete highlights of North Carolina's win over Duke, courtesy of Go Heels TV.


    Roy Williams Visits 5-Star Wendell Moore

    UNC Basketball logo
    UNC Basketball

    Roy Williams Visits 5-Star Wendell Moore

    Keeping It Heel
    via Keeping It Heel

    Oklahoma Nabs 4-Star Big Man Victor Iwuakor

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Oklahoma Nabs 4-Star Big Man Victor Iwuakor

    Scott Phillips
    via CollegeBasketballTalk

    Vols Land 5-Star Guard Josiah James

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Vols Land 5-Star Guard Josiah James

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report

    Div. III St. Joseph Officially Hires Jim Calhoun

    College Basketball logo
    College Basketball

    Div. III St. Joseph Officially Hires Jim Calhoun

    via ESPN.com