Carolina struggles to put pieces together
With a statement issued Monday, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams shed a thin beam of light on an uncertain immediate future.
The potential suspension looming for standout guard P.J. Hairston is the latest in a series of obstacles for the flagship program in Chapel Hill. While Williams lauded the program as being a model both on and off the court and expressed his embarrassment at Hairston's run-in with the law, this is not the first hurdle Carolina has had cast its way this offseason.
Reggie Bullock, who was the top overall perimeter player for the Tar Heels last season, is now playing for the Los Angeles Clippers after he was taken in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Andrew Wiggins, who burst onto the national scene while still in high school as the most heralded recruit since Lebron James, spurned overtures from Carolina to go to Kansas.
As it stands, Williams is facing a task almost as daunting as what he had on his hands last year. Heading into the 2012-2013 season, he had to replace five starters from an Elite Eight squad. This year, James Michael McAdoo will again be asked to shoulder a hefty load after the Tar Heels lost Bullock, Dexter Strickland and now possibly Hairston.
In a starring role last season, McAdoo's results were mixed. Although he averaged 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game a year ago, McAdoo was outshone at times by his teammate Bullock. In hindsight, it appears the position of go-to scorer is better suited for a teammate to handle. Unfortunately, no such player stands out on Carolina's roster.
The only other returning starter from last year is rising sophomore point guard Marcus Paige. He showed glimpses as a freshman of being an impact player for the Tar Heels, but is at his best creating for others off the dribble. Asking him to score in bunches could be a formidable request for someone unaccustomed to taking the lead.
Perhaps the greatest challenge Williams faces is trying to rebuild is his frontcourt defense.
Carolina developed an identity as an offensive-minded team last season once Hairston was inserted into the starting lineup. Without him or Bullock around to stretch defenses with their shot-making ability, where will that offensive identity come from?
All of which does nothing to explain how the relatively undersized McAdoo will be able to anchor the post on the defensive end. Not a naturally-gifted shot blocker, he relies heavily upon his athleticism and is often expected to guard much larger players. How will he hold up over the duration of the season with these heightened expectations?
These questions and several others have surfaced for a team that managed a 25-11 record and third-round exit at the hands of the aforementioned Jayhawks. For a program which expects to be competitive with other national contenders each and every year, it could be yet another long season in Chapel Hill.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.