Tag:North Carolina
Posted on: February 5, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 3:13 pm

The UNC family squabbles go public

Posted by MATT JONES

No college basketball program in the country is prouder of its basketball alumni base than North Carolina. During the Dean Smith era, the image of a "UNC family" was cultivated and has become as large a part of UNC lore as its baby blue uniforms. The family concept plays a large part in recruiting, as the Tar Heels make use of their notable NBA alumni as well as any program in America, usually in the form of having the players coincidentally show up on campus when top flight recruits make their visits. It even affects decisions about the program, most famously showcased when the UNC leadership chose an inexperienced Matt Doherty to take over for Bill Guthridge, rather than trust the ship to someone outside the family. The image and reality of a UNC basketball cosa nostra is a large part of what makes North Carolina basketball unique and the family concept is to be cultivated and encouraged at all times.

That is partially why the story of Larry Drew quitting the team mid-season took many by surprise. It isn't uncommon for UNC to have transfers, as unworthy McDonald's All Americans ranging from Neil Fingleton to the Wear brothers have left the program over the years due to a lack of playing time or unharnessed ability. And, as Matt Norlander pointed out here yesterday, from a production standpoint, losing Larry Drew will be of little significance to Roy Williams's team this season or in the future. But for a player who has been a significant part of the rotation to just up and leave in the middle of the year with virtually no notice, well that suggests a rift in the family atmosphere that has previously been uncommon, or at least unspoken, in Chapel Hill.

Enter the wonderful world of Facebook. Yesterday, former UNC player Damion Grant posted well wishes for Larry Drew on his Facebook status saying, "always hate to see a player leave the fam, but no one can judge unless you walked in his shoes. Best wishes lil homie. Nothing but love Drew II." That set off a firestorm of comments on Grant's Facebook wall and led to this response by former UNC player Rashad McCants' father, James (the screen shot is linked here and contains some blatant salty language):


The topic then led to more back and forth conversation between McCants' father and other UNC fans in the comment section. Those comments included more criticism by McCants towards Williams, but have all since been removed, leaving us only with the screen shot above courtesy of The Devils' Den Duke Twitter feed (shocking that a Duke fan site would record it for posterity and future conversation, I know). It has always been rumored that Rashad McCants did not enjoy his time in Chapel Hill and had a decidedly rocky relationship with Coach Roy Williams. On at least one occasion, McCants has denied those rumors, but his father's comments suggest that the relationship was, at best, far from perfect. 

In the end, North Carolina will survive Larry Drew's departure on the court and his replacement at the point, Kendall Marshall is a better longterm solution for the Heels anyway. But his departure does poke some holes into the "one big happy UNC family" picture that is such an important part of the Carolina program and mystique. The notion that things are simply different at Carolina because the UNC family has a special strong lifetime bond that can't be severed looks to be, at least in some cases, a complete myth. Don't believe me? Just ask James McCants.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 5, 2011 1:50 pm
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Posted on: February 4, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 7:08 pm

Drew's departure a shock wave yet barely a ripple

Posted by Matt Norlander

Many years down the road, when I hope I'm still in this business and well-connected to players and coaches much more than I am now, that's when I'll have the right to kill a kid over transferring in February.

But I don't know Larry Drew II. At all. I don't know Roy Williams. I don't know the culture of North Carolina basketball under Williams and with Drew. So I'll leave the circumstances regarding the point guard's unnatural jettisoning of the Tar Heels' program to experienced vets who've got plenty more stitches on their lapels than I (which is to say: none).

What I am (barely) qualified to handle: telling you how much this really isn't going to impact North Carolina.

With a 16-5 overall mark and a 6-1 record in-conference, the Tar Heels are currently is second place in the ACC. If they've made it this far with Drew on board, it's unlikely they'll flare off into dangerous territory without him. In fact, many a fan will be all too happy to tell you how often Williams' team won in spite of their much-maligned point guard.

North Carolina has trekked back into successful territory this season thanks to Williams' signature fast, secondary-break offense, along with a defense that's improved significantly in forcing opponents into taking bad shots.

Drew's traditional statistical numbers dipped in almost every category this year, as the shorter leash didn't seem to inspire him to make the most of his minutes.

Not only was he a small part of the 2010-11 UNC machine, the fact Drew started at the 1 for 90 percent of the Tar Heels' games to this point and still managed to pull off being the ninth-most effective player on the team is something that's incredibly rare.

To be frank: starting point guards who get overshadowed, from a production standpoint, by eight guys in front of them usually share a surname with a coach. This just doesn't happen; or, at least it's not supposed to. The fact that it was happening made the UNC fanbase's constant consternation over it all the more legitimate/expected/anticipated/per
missible. Some could argue Drew's "invisibility" on the floor was as much an indictment on Williams' patience as anything, but I digress.

Let's look through a little more evidence. Drew was 224th in assist rate (the percentage of possessions he delivers an assist on) and 397th in steal rate. Those are the only two tempo-free categories in which Drew ranks in the top 10, nationally, and he is hardly elite in either, as you can see. The biggest indictment on Drew's ability (and, by proxy, making Williams look a fool): In his short time replacing Drew as a starter, freshman point guard Kendall Marshall is already fifth-best in the country at distributing the ball. Simply amazing.

With Kendall needing not to look over his shoulder for the rest of this season, his production stands to continue at a high rate, especially in the average ACC.

My take is not revolutionary or original; I'm merely trying to push the stamp down for indelible emphasis' sake — Drew's departure is dramatic off the floor, but hardly impactful on it. Don't expect as much as a hiccup from UNC over this.

Posted on: January 28, 2011 10:15 am
Edited on: January 28, 2011 10:19 am

Barnes and the UNC freshmen are starting to click

Freshmen Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes celebrate a win at MiamiPosted by Eric Angevine

It's still bad news for UNC fans that the Tar Heels need late-game heroics to beat mediocre teams like Virginia Tech and Miami. The good news is, they're getting those heroics, and they're getting them from the guy they've banked so much on this season: freshman Harrison Barnes (right, celebrating with fellow freshman Reggie Bullock).

In last night's 74-71 road win over the Hurricanes, Barnes was hot down the stretch, scoring five points in the final minute and a half to preserve the win. The most spectacular shot was the game-winning three he drilled on a broken-play assist from fellow frosh Kendall Marshall. Not only did Barnes calmly execute the play in spite of being ridden all night by the home crowd, but he acquired a nickname in the process, according to the Charlotte Observer.

"He's a special kind of player," said freshman point guard Kendall Marshall, who made an improbable assist on Barnes' 3-point shot. "That's the Black Falcon. He wants the ball at crunch time, he wants to make the big play. He wants to put us on his back."

Marshall, who has somewhat steadied a murky point-guard situation in Chapel Hill, obviously has confidence in Barnes, who has suffered from unwanted backlash from a pre-season listing on the All-America team, a first for a freshman. I've often wondered if Barnes and President Obama could have a comforting discussion about the dangers of receiving too much outside praise too soon.

I sat next to an NBA scout when Barnes and the Tar Heels came to Charlottesville, and I couldn't resist fishing a bit during a time out. "Sometimes, I forget Barnes is in the game." I said. "Yeah, that's a big part of his problem." my neighbor replied. We're used to seeing one-and-dones like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley and Carmelo Anthony: outsized personalities who demanded the ball and came through more often than not. After watching Barnes for a few weeks, I think we may just not understand his self-contained personality. The skills are clearly there.

While that unphased exterior can be frustrating to viewers who want a show, it's worth noting that Barnes is in a different situation than any of the players I mentioned above, who were clearly in charge of their teams from day one. UNC needs to get touches for Tyler Zeller and John Henson on a nightly basis. Those two sizable veteran players are not assets to be wasted. Barnes' freshman campaign to date reminds me quite a bit of Xavier Henry's one season at Kansas, albeit with a much higher degree of pressure. Henry was knocked for a lack of aggression on a veteran team, but started to find his stroke midway through conference play. Barnes may be on the verge of a similar breakthrough.

Barnes' mental makeup is encouraging. He personifies the Haters Gonna Hate mentality I urged on Roy Williams in an earlier post. You can almost hear the nonchalant shrug in his voice when reading this quote from last night's postgame presser: "That (over-rated chant) seems to be a usual thing I'm starting to hear. At the end of the day, we won the game. They're entitled to say and chant whatever they want."

This may not become the Black Falcon's team overnight. He may be a complementary piece for the rest of the season, in fact. But the kid has his head screwed on straight, and he has the support of his teammates. Don't be surprised if this team is right in the thick of things come ACC tournament time.
Posted on: December 24, 2010 11:32 am
Edited on: December 24, 2010 11:42 am

Roy Williams fights off a nap while recruiting

Posted by Matt Norlander

I don't think the video below's all that funny. Really, it's sort of creepy — but also revealing.

While on a recent recruiting trip, UNC head coach Roy Williams was deftly videotaped, dozing off as he fought the fight we all eventually lose: the one with our eyelids. Duke Hoop Blog ran the clip on its site yesterday (and a hat tip for the post title; sometimes they just write themselves).

It's an interesting peek. This is the life of most college basketball coaches. There's so much more time spent in echoey, mostly empty gyms, where glamour and fanfare are far, far away.

This is the view of a man trying to keep up with a rival. Said rival happens to be in attendance, too, and remains alert, focused, conversating with his spry assistant, Chris Collins. They are sitting in the bleachers, just a chest pass away.

The recruiting trip took place in Fort Myers, Fla. (I do not know who was being recruited.) While Duke is bringing in terrific prospects by the truckload, Williams and North Carolina staff are suddenly sprinting to keep up, despite the fact they brought in the No. 1-rated player of 2010. After all, Mike Krzyzewski just won his fourth national title in April, Duke remains the country's best team ... while the Heels failed to even make The Tournament last year and are struggling again so far this season. You can bet Ol' Roy's shirt collars have plenty of sweat stains on them.

One last thing: If anyone brings this video to Williams' attention, you can bet he's going to be upset with the voyeuristic nature of the video. Who wouldn't be?
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