Editor’s Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly spelled Stilman White’s name as “Stillman.”
Stilman was a late addition to the Heels this past spring, and there’s no mistaking that after the departure of Larry Drew II, he’s the Kendall Marshall Insurance Policy that Roy needed. With only Dexter Strickland capable of running the offense besides Marshall, one injury at PG had the potential of derailing a whole season. I’m not knocking, White. He’s a capable player and even guided the Heels to an offensive outburst in the exhibition against UNC-Pembroke. I’m just putting into context that he’s been recruited as a backup — who will give some depth to the position for the next six years! White will take his Mormon mission next year, and won’t return to the Heels until the 2014-’15 season. It’s actually kind of genius by Ol’ Roy. White will take off for his mission at the same time that a more highly recruited point guard, Marcus Paige, comes in. Paige will presumably learn the ropes under Marshall’s tutelage, then take over in 2014, right when his back-up returns from his Mormon mission.
White seemingly gets along famously with Kendall Marshall, that is if you follow the two’s Twitter feeds. Anything he can soak up from Marshall will be a great asset for those times White gets to play this year. He’ll most likely see some Blue Team duties, and could be something of a crowd favorite. He is from Wilmington, after all. Here’s some wishful thinking: What if White plays on a national champion this year, and then after returning, plays for another title team, assuming Roy keeps up his “contend every three or four years” pattern?
It’s been a while. Nice to see you! We hope you haven’t given your blog loyalty to someone else! Have no fear, we’re back. We’re back and better than ever.
Truth be told, it’s been pretty busy for us Rafters bloggers the past couple of weeks, and aside from some technical log-in difficulties, we’re finally ready to start the season — only five days after practice began. We had such plans! We meant to start back mid-September, then we rolled it back to beginning of October, then we said, “OK, we’re going to do it for Late Night with Roy. We’re SO going to do it then!”
Turns out both Benn and I were out of town, working too much, or in my case, getting engaged (#humblebrag) the past few weeks. So, what we meant the whole time was we’re going to start right now.
Not sure why it took so much effort to get us started this year. I mean, have you seen the preseason projections?
When Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all turned down staying at home during the NBA lockout, college basketball suddenly gained an elite team, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since say, 2008-’09.
In fact, it’s eerily familiar to that other special season, when a different Tyler, and some fellows named Ty, Wayne and Danny all decided to come back for one more shot. We all know what Barnes said about his reasons for coming back. Hansbrough said the same, one-track-mind kind of thing.
The Heels return all five starters from an Elite 8 squad that was No. 1 in the country in rebounding, 24th in points-per-game and 30th in assists-per-game. According to Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, UNC was the 6th best defensive team in the country last year. Roy Williams’ hallmark has never been defense, but with the length of UNC’s frontcourt, particularly Henson, and the speed of guards like Dexter Strickland, that sentiment appears to be changing.
Don’t let us forget to mention the daggum passin’est, tweetin’est, sneaker headin’est Tar Heel we’ve seen in Ol’ Roy’s tenure, Kendall Marshall. And also, the crop of top recruits coming to Chapel Hill, headlined by James Michael McAdoo and the Tar Heel bred P.J. Hairston.
We might not have gotten started blogging when we originally planned, but man, is it ever going to be easy to get excited. To get you just as excited, here are some links from around the web that are worth shrugging off work for a little while today:
See you this year,
Caroline Leigh, and ramblinWrecker are discussing. Toggle Comments
Yesterday it was confirmed that North Carolina signed Wilmington point guard, Stilman White to play for the Tar Heels next season. This is great news as now Dexter Strickland won’t be forced to play the point when Kendall Marshall is getting a rest. It’s also great news because it will secure the back-up point guard position for the next six years — yes, six years.
White is Mormon – he also had offers from BYU, Utah State and UNC-Wilmington — and will play for the Heels next year, but then take his two-year mission during the following years, and return to play for UNC during the 2014-’15 season. Roy Williams has already secured a top-flight point guard in the class of 2012 in Marcus Paige.
White is a good player, and I’m certainly not ruling out the possibility for leaps in improvement, but he’s likely not the caliber of Marshall or Paige. In essence, he would back up either player if they were on the same roster. He will back up Marshall next year, Marshall’s sophomore year, then take off for his mission. Paige will step in the following year, Marshall’s junior season, and back up Kendall for his final two years at Carolina — all while White is on his mission. White comes back to UNC when Paige is a junior, presumably with tons of experience after backing up Marshall for two years, and White will still have three years of eligibility left in the NCAA. He can back-up Paige for Paige’s junior and senior seasons, and perhaps any other point guard that comes down the pike by his senior year.
Or who knows, maybe White will be starting caliber by his senior year, at which point he could take the reigns of the team. The bottom line is after these past two seasons of anxiousness with Dexter Strickland having to play out of position to run the offense, securing a great back-up point guard for a long period of time was a great move by Roy.
Of course, that’s assuming that Marshall and Paige both stay four years, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
UNC 81, Duke 67
You might have heard that over the weekend the Tar Heels handed No. 4 Duke an emphatic loss in the Smith Center to claim the regular-season ACC title. You also might have heard that despite a short-lived Duke run to bring its deficit to five in the second half, the game was never in doubt. UNC dominated the devils behind a commanding performance from its freshman point guard, Kendall Marshall. Lastly, it’s possible you heard that after Saturday’s romp, the Tar Heels are seen as potential Final Four contenders while the Blue Devils merely have questions surrounding their team that was once considered a lock to play in April.
In the almost 16-month history of the Rafters, this is the first time we’ve been able to write about a Duke win. How sweet is it? Let’s just say my fingers are shaking. Despite the fact that the most recent AP rankings rank Duke No. 5 and Carolina No. 6, it’s safe to say that those numbers could easily be reversed. A potential rubber match on Sunday has already kept me awake at night. Forget the holidays, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
But back to the game that has already taken place. Watching at a bar with dozens of other Carolina fans, every basket, miss, steal, free-throw, whistle, assist, foul and turnover was met with cheers or jeers. Speaking of turnovers, Nolan smith had five to just three assists, but I digress. While every possession felt like life and death in the moment, the reality was Carolina controlled the game for the majority of the match. In many ways, it was a mirror of the first match-up, minus the second half Duke rally. Smith and Seth Curry got plenty of points, but when two players score literally 75 percent of the team’s total (50 of 67 total points), the rest of team has to contribute in any way it can, and the Devils didn’t respond.
Carolina on the other hand delivered a balanced attack, perhaps evidenced by Marshall’s 11 assists and no player topping 20 points. Barnes had his routine 18 points to lead the team, and Henson notched his routine double-double. March has just begun, but it’s already given us a reason to remember why we love it so much.
Player of the Game: Kendall Marshall (15 pts, 11 asts, 2 rebs ) All that stylin’ and only two turnovers while playing 36 minutes against what is typically a very good defensive team.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. The John Henson Award): Henson (10 pts, 12 rebs, 1 blk, 1 stl)
Play of the Game: While he didn’t have a great overall game, Dexter Strickland’s dunk with about a minute remaining was the nail in the coffin. Really wish I could have heard the roar in person.
UNC 72, Florida State 70
Pretty much everything that was predicted about the Florida State game came true. It was a close game, Derwin Kitchen led the ‘Noles and Carolin
a pulled out the win.
Oh, and Harrison Barnes “Sheened” all over Tallahassee.
In what has become a regular occurrence for the Heels in the Sunshine State, they won on a last second shot. FSU, which hadn’t lost an ACC game at home, came to play, hanging with Carolina for the entire game. But after Kitchen’s free throws put the ‘Noles up one with 18 seconds to go, it came down to Harrison Barnes to pull off the final shot in his typically heroic fashion.
After a timeout, Marshall drove the entire length of the floor and tossed up a prayer of a lay-up that was easily swatted out of bounds under the Heels’ offensive end — 11 seconds to go. The inbound came back to Marshall, who then passed it to Barnes who nonchalantly hung out at the top of the key.
Holy shit, he’s going to shoot it.
Yes, Barnes did shoot it — from behind the arc when only down one — and swished it. It wasn’t quite the play Roy had drawn up, but it went in. Barnes would later tell the media that he was supposed to drive, but saw that it was more open to take the trey. Who’s a freshman?
Player of the Game: The Black Falcon (18 pts, 4 rebs) After seemingly dissappearing in the second half, Barnes reasserted himself as the go-to player on the Tar Heels. He. Is. Based.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the John Henson Award): #seewhatididthere (19 pts, 12 rebs, 2 asts, 3 blks)
Stat of the Game: OK, it’s two games worth, but in both his meetings with Florida State this year combined, Kendall Marshall has 24 assists to six turnovers. Suck on that, Nolan.
Almost-fight of the Game: Deividas Dulkys of Florida State said a few words to Henson after a rough play under the baskest. Henson seemed to have more than a few for him in return, and Dulkys shut up immediately. Only about a half foot height difference in those two, and I’d say Henson has him on the reach.
(Pic from N&O)
UNC 48, Boston College 46 – Box Score
UNC 75, N.C. State 63 – Box Score
Apologies, fair readers for my laziness this week in getting you the esteemed Tar Heel analysis you crave. In the interest of efficiency I’m going to combine the BC and State wrap-ups with some generalizations that have come to me over the past two games. Both games were similar in that they were closer than most of us would have preferred, but I’m not ready to say they were necessarily failures on the part of Carolina.
While shooting woes continue to plague the entire team for what has seemed like the entire season (except maybe against Hofstra and BC version 1.0), we seem to have forgotten that the Heels are now a Top 20 team (No. 19), and the “we’re playing Carolina so give them our best shot” factor is back in full force. BC version 2.0 was a game in which the Eagles were playing for their NCAA tourney lives, and State, well, they always try pitifully to beat the Heels in the rivalry game, but don’t tell Harrison Barnes it’s a rivalry.
The point is, the lowest amount of points scored in the Dean Dome didn’t derail this team, and neither did a feisty nearby rival on the road. It might not be pretty, but UNC knows how to win.
Superlatives (sort of)
So maybe I was a little light on the analysis this week, but at least I have some nice links for you above. Basically, I just wanted to get to this point.
Harrison Barnes is who we thought he was before the season started.
He might have started slow, but Barnes is visibly becoming a leader of this team. While I would not have awarded a player of the game to anyone in the BC game, Barnes gets it hands down for his momentum-killing dunks and trey in the final minutes of the second half against N.C. State. The run felt similar to the one he had in the first half against Kentucky earlier this year. Barnes is finally getting it and at the right times. He doesn’t disappear anymore and wants to be the man in crunch time. His instincts will be valuable in the tournament this year, and Carolina is going to be a tough “out” in a few short weeks when it heads to the dance again. With Henson’s defensive presence, Barnes’ knack for heroics,Marshall’s cerebral passing, Zeller’s consistent production and all the other fine pieces in place in Chapel Hill, it’s going to be a fun March.
Any game following a Duke game has the potential to be a trap. Saturday’s test at Clemson proved that axiom to be true. While Carolina went up early 15-4, the game sort of creeped back into a competitive affair after some sloppy play, including lots of missed lay-ups by the Heels. Unlike the Duke game, however, when Clemson mounted its comeback UNC responded by going up 61-53 in the final minute. That run was keyed by what could be the play of the year for this Carolina team, with Harrison Barnes taking off from the arc and driving the lane for a one-handed jam.
As was the case with the last Clemson game, Carolina was able to control the paint behind Henson and Zeller, a fact that was never more evident than one play in which Henson blocked Jerai Grant, the rebound went to Andre Young, who was then immediately swatted by Zeller. That wasn’t the only play the duo got the best of Clemson’s best big man and leading rebounder, Grant. He finished with zero points and one rebound.
The game was an important win, and showed how much this year’s team has progressed since the start of the season. Others are taking notice as well, evidenced by the fact that despite the loss to Duke, Carolina moved up to No. 19 in both national polls.
Player of the Game: Close one here between Henson (14 pts, 12 rebs) and Barnes (20 pts, 5 rebs). Barnes contributed plenty of scoring while Henson seemingly altered every shot inside the arc and tallied four blocks. The award goes to Barnes for his jaw-dropper with three minutes left that started UNC’s last push. You know Henson will get some love below.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the Danny Green Award): John Henson (14 pts, 12 rebs, 4 blks, 2 asts, 1 stl). Seriously though, when should we rename this the John Henson Award?
Play of the Game: You know you hit rewind after this diddy.
Play of the Game II: The Henson/Zeller double down block party.
There’s been a lot of discussion, and rightfully so, on the subject of Larry Drew II’s sudden departure from the Carolina basketball team Friday morning. Mostly, he’s been panned for his decision, and that might actually be putting it lightly. Read Seth Davis, Gary Parrish and Andy Katz. Larry won’t be getting any sympathy in the media any time soon.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably aware that for the past two seasons, we’ve defended LD numerous times. First and foremost, this is not another defense of Larry Drew II. The manner in which he left the team is not something that deserves defending, and Drew’s cowardice in his departure is not emblematic of Dean Smith’s famous “Carolina Way.”
What we would like to do, however, is try and decipher what could have led to his decision, which seemingly doesn’t make any sense.
Larry Drew Sr. told the News & Observer last week that the decision for LDII to transfer was made before the season even started. That’s bullshit. If you’ve already made your decision, you leave. Drew II had to have originally had the intention of playing out the entire season. By leaving after the start of this semester, he loses roughly a third of a season of eligibility. There’s absolutely no benefit to him leaving now. Some popular theories are 1) that LD is just saying “screw you” to the team and putting his own pride above the team’s well-being and 2) his parents have convinced him he deserves better.
While Davis’ story above reports on the issues that Drew’s mother presented to the coaches and athletic department, and on the surface it does seem LD is just bailing on the team, those theories don’t capture the whole story. Remember, Drew is actually hurting his own basketball future by leaving now. What coach is going to want to pick up LD this offseason? A mediocre point guard with character questions and intrusive parents? No, thanks.
There’s got to be more to it than that. How many regular students do you know who just pick up and leave one month into the Spring semester, let alone student athletes in the middle of their season? The constant harping by the media that Kendall Marshall is a superior point guard — which is true — along with the huge ovations Marshall has been receiving of late must have been taking their toll. The pressure of being UNC’s point guard was taking it’s toll. The pressure he was getting from his parents was taking its toll. The simple fact is Drew was miserable — so miserable, that he couldn’t stay another day.
Coaches had said that Larry took his demotion to the bench well, something that might explain his increased production in a reserve role. Perhaps the temporary relief of not starting was soon thwarted by the praise of Marshall’s recent play, which subsequently requires a comparison to the lesser player Drew.
I won’t even begin to speculate if his misery was rooted in a belief that he was actually deserving of the starting role, or if it was rooted in a feeling of abandonment by his team, but being depressed is not something that anyone deals with well. His demotion instigated the media coverage, parental pressure and personal anguish that must have consumed him. And while his actions were ungraceful, perhaps Larry does deserve a little sympathy.
That being said, Roy Williams and the coaching staff handled his demotion (and don’t let anyone tell you that his demotion wasn’t the impetus for his departure) in the best way possible. Fans had been clamoring for Marshall to start for several weeks before the gradual transition took place in the Georgia Tech game. Roy substituted five for five several times in the game before leaving Marshall on the floor while the rest of the starters came in. The next game, Marshall was the official starter, but was still splitting minutes more or less evenly with Drew. This slow transition was obviously a conscious decision, and probably a decision made to let LD down gently.
While we feel sorry for Drew, we still feel the confusion and betrayal that we did upon his announcement Friday. The fact is, regardless of his reasons and whether those reasons are justified, Drew bailed without warning. He didn’t show his teammates and coaches the respect they deserved, making a bad situation worse. After seeing Drew handle this ordeal with so little class, there will be no love lost here at the Rafters. At the same time, however, we won’t be cursing his name.
UNC 75, Clemson 65
Apologies for the lateness on this post, but really, if you’re a regular reader you have to have noticed the irregularity in how quickly we get these up, so on with the show.
One advantage of writing this late post is that I can get little tid-bits like the one below and also not feeling I have to recount the game perfectly, as numerous news stories probably already have. Haven’t you ever sat down and wondered just how in the world UNC hasn’t lost to Clemson at home — EVER? Every coach and every player always says something like “the streak doesn’t have anything to do with our team, this year.” It’s always played down by everyone involved in the game. Well, except for John Henson.
“You don’t want to be that one team that breaks the streak,” Henson said , “and fortunately we’re not the team.”
Neither was the 8-20 team lead by Jason Capel and two freshmen you might remember named Jackie Manuel and Jawad Williams. Neither was any team for that matter.
Yes, no matter how good or bad UNC and Clemson are in a given year, there’s always a certain anxiousness surrounding a game at the Smith Center. Will this be the year? Well, 2011 wasn’t, and here’s one Tar Heel that will be happy for it to stay that way forever. While I’ve never considered Clemson a true “rival” of Carolina’s, there’s a level of comfort the Streak provides that might just make the world feel different if it were to break. I promise I’m not superstitious, but in the words of Michael Scott, maybe just a little ‘stitious.
Player of the Game: Reggie Bullock (18 pts, 5 rebs, 2 ast, 2stl) Considering two of his five boards were offensive, the kid was everywhere in his 18 minutes of PT. If Bullock had played starters’ minutes (say 30), Reggie would have tallied 30 pts, 9 rebs, 3 ast, 3 stl)
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. The Danny Green Award): John Henson (14 pts, 8 rebs, 2 ast, 5 blk, 1 stl) Henson is a regular for the big DG award but what was most impressive is he did all of his damage without committing a single turnover.
Block Party: As mentioned above, Henson and Zeller combined for a lethal defensive force against Clemson’s Jerai Grant. Sit down, and come back when you’re ready to play with the big boys.
BMOC: Kendall Marshall for the ovation he received upon being announced as a starter. We know it’s still a split job, but I bet that had to feel good.