It’s that time of the year, on November 6th, UNC basketball will open their season up against Wofford. Like all Tar Heel fans we are hoping this season ends with a National Title, but as a former UNC player and a guy with a pretty good understanding of the game, I know UNC will have it’s ups and downs through out the season. The key to a successful season will be the ability to learn on the fly, and adjust to new roles.
The achilles heel of this Tar Heel team will be how fast they learn and adjust to their new roles. Carolina has two former five star recruits suiting up for them this year in Nassir Little and Coby White. Nassir Little is a freak athlete, who competes at a very high level. He has a strong build, is super athletic and has range on his jump shot. Coby White is a big guard, who is crafty, has great quickness, and can score the basketball at an elite level. Boasting the skills that these two have, the big question is how do you allow them to do what they do best, but within the Carolina system? What position will Nassir play and be most effective? Do you give the keys to the team immediately to Coby and let him run the point? Lets talk about Nassir first. Nassir is a flat out dog on the court! He goes hard every possession offensively and defensively. Nassir’s NBA position is small forward, but he could dominate the collegiate level by playing the power forward position for UNC. I say this because I know the ins and outs of Carolina’s offensive system. Playing power forward at UNC, you act as a second point guard on the floor, because the decision you make with the ball as the trailing big man in UNC’s secondary break dictates what play will be run. With Nassir’s athleticism, strength, ability to shoot, drive, and rebound he could expose bigger players on the perimeter and over power smaller forwards in the paint. Now lets talk Coby White. Coby is an elite PG. He can score with best of them. The challenge Coby will face will be how to get everyone involved, while doing what he does best. In my opinion, Coby is a scorer first, distributor second. Not saying he can’t or won’t get others involved, but running PG at UNC is little different from playing the point in other settings. It’s a lot to be asked of a freshman to come in and be the head of a team that carries so much pressure. Every year UNC is expected to contend for a title. While the expectations may not be fair, it comes with the territory. I’m confident that Coby will have an outstanding season not just because of his natural ability, but because he has access to the mind of a great former Carolina point guard, Kendall Marshall. I think Kendall’s presence and the way he sees and played the game will help Coby’s development tremendously. I know I had a lot to say about these two guys, but I believe they will be important not only for this season, but for the future of UNC basketball.
Another area of concern is the center position for UNC. Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman, and Sterling Manley are still battling for who will win valuable minutes. Each guy brings something similar to the team, but the one who shows the most consistency and ability to play big in the paint will win the minutes. The development of the bigs will only make the roster stronger. While having size at center helps, I believe our best lineup will be a small ball line up. The small ball lineup will give UNC versatility, speed and shooting, at every position on the floor. Positionless basketball is hard to guard on every level.
This Tar Heel team has what is needed to be a championship caliber team. They have leadership in the senior class and good mix of battle-tested underclassmen. One thing I know for certain is that this team will compete every game. I like to always pick my dark horse on the team every season. The guy who may not be talked about a lot, but at some point will make an impact. That guy for me is Leaky Black. I met and played against Leaky under the same circumstances I met Luke Maye. He would come in and play pick up with us in the summer. Back then he impressed me the same way Luke did, by being aggressive and not being shy. In my opinion that says a lot about a guy, to step on the court with pros and not back down. Leaky has the tools to be a very good player. He is long, athletic and is a multi positional player. Remember, I did tell you all about Luke Maye, FIRST. And no, I will never let that die down.
Best wishes to our Tar Heels this season! I think it will be a great year, but I know there will be some learning curves in there. Stay patient and I will check back in with you all when they start dancing in March.