UNC’s 2014-15 roster, ranked
If case anybody wasn’t sure, Roy Williams has made it clear to his own players who the best guy on the team is this year, and it’s not particularly close.
Marcus Paige is a preseason All-American, and ranked by several outlets as one of the top two-to-three players in college basketball this year. Everybody knows — and loves — Paige (who ranks as No. 1 in case that wasn’t abundantly clear), but how does the rest of the team stack up? Plenty of returning contributors are back and in position for more minutes, and they’re being joined by a group of highly touted freshman. Here’s the Rafters take on who will be the go-to guys behind Paige this season.
2. Brice Johnson
Johnson averaged 19.4 minutes per game last season and still managed to score 10.3 ppg while grabbing 6.1 rpg. With the departure of James Michael McAdoo, Johnson’s role is expected to grow and more closely resemble starter’s minutes. If he maintained the output he’s already shown he can produce over extended minutes – say 30 minutes per game – he could be on pace for 15 ppg and 9 rbg. In other words, more than what preseason All-American Montrezl Harrell averaged last season. Remember #freeBriceJohnson? This is the year he’s freed.
3. Kennedy Meeks
Meeks started last season, but played limited minutes due to his conditioning and the uptempo offense for which Roy Williams is known. Visibly lighter, Meeks has reportedly shed 50 (!) pounds since reporting as a freshman last summer. While Brice Johnson has shown a knack for scoring and has more athletic upside, we think Meeks overall skill set is more polished. He’s an excellent outlet passer and rebounds well for his size. He probably has the softest hands on the team. He should make the notorious freshman-to-sophomore leap.
4. Justin Jackson
ESPN’s No. 8 overall recruit, Jackson carries a reputation as a player who can score from anywhere on the court. He can shoot threes, he has a nasty mid-range game (a rarity in college hoops), and has a nose for the ball around the basket. He has good size for a wing at 6’7″, and will likely see a lot of time at the two when Paige is playing point. In an ideal world, Jackson is the missing link as an outside threat not named Marcus Paige and opens things up for the rest of the team.
5. J.P. Tokoto
Tokoto made huge strides as a sophomore, averaging 9.3 ppg, 5.8 rbg and leading the team in steals while adding in some athletic blocks. He is the heir to Danny Green’s throne as a does-it-all-well wing. He should maintain his starting spot with the guys mentioned above to round out a very dangerous starting five.
6. Isaiah Hicks
Hicks played out of position on the wing last season, not unlike John Henson as a freshman. This year he’ll move back to his natural four slot, where he’s more comfortable. Let’s not forget that Hicks was a higher-rated prospect than both Meeks and Nate Britt coming out of high school. His move back to power forward could be the X factor for this squad as he lead the team in scoring in exhibitions in the Bahamas earlier this year.
7. Theo Pinson
If Tokoto is the heir-apparent to Danny Green, then Pinson, a top 10-rated freshman, is his understudy. Known for highlight-reel dunks on YouTube, Pinson should be a spark off the bench and a scoring threat that can spell J.P. He’s P.J. Hairston without all the threes (and cars).
8. Nate Britt
Britt has a year of experience and has switched his shooting hand on free throws, so we’re giving him the nod as the highest rated backup point guard. Britt wasn’t a revelation last season, but was a steady hand at spelling Paige, or running the show while Paige was at shooting guard. Britt also has the ability to push the ball up the floor with speed, which is a great asset in Roy Williams’ system.
9. Joel Berry
Rating Berry this low could be the biggest oversight we make on this list. He’s a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Florida and averaged over 25 ppg in high school. He led his team to two straight state titles and is a proven winner. The second highest-rated freshman point guard in the nation that’s actually playing in college this year (Nǐ hǎo, Emmanuel Mudiay), Berry could easily skyrocket into starter’s minutes, allowing Paige to play off the ball more often.
10. Jackson Simmons
Simmons isn’t here so much for what he does as much as what he doesn’t do: make stupid mistakes. You might as well call him “Teaching Moment” Simmons. When Roy gets ticked, you know Jackson is heading to the scorer’s table to show his teammates a proper defensive stance, or dive on the ground for loose balls. Coaches love him. If you went to high school with Simmons, your parents would probably want you to hang out with him so that his good influence would rub off on you.
11. Desmond Hubert
Hubert developed a bit of a reputation as a defensive stopper last season, and was good for some timely blocks despite averaging only 6 mpg. He’s long and athletic and a good piece to have on the bench. He has a good motor and makes the most of his PT. He’s another guy Roy loves to use as an example.
12. Joel James
Joel James brings what the team has been missing since the inimitable Greg Little rode the bench – personality. Have you ever seen someone mean-mug the camera better than James? He’s athletic for his size and probably one solid, offensive post move away from being a nice player. Worth noting, we said the same thing last year.
13. Stilman White
Stilman White returns from his Mormon mission with his last collegiate appearance being in the 2012 Elite Eight. White brings some nice depth at the point guard position, which was the downfall of that aforementioned, snakebitten season. He had good ball security in ’12 and should be able to step into action if needed, although with three other ball handlers above him, we’re not sure how much tick he’ll be getting this year.
14. Luke Davis
ANOTHER POINT GUARD. Luke Davis is hurt right now, or would likely be ranked above Stilman. After the nightmare of 2012, it seems Roy never wants to be without at least a backup or three.
15. Justin Coleman
Now we get to the walk ons! We don’t really know much about Justin Coleman, but he’s listed as a guard, which makes him most likely to assume the “biscuits” role in the Smith Center this season if the Heels are sitting at 97 points. He gets the nod at 15.
16. Sasha Seymore
Seymore is from New Bern! A pleasant place near the coast if you ever have the chance to visit.