Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roy Williams on new hire, officiating and competing for recruits with Coach K

CHARLOTTE — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said on Wednesday night during a Rams Club Tar Heel Tour stop in Charlotte that he plans to spend next week focusing on hiring a new assistant coach. Williams will be filling a void on his staff left by the departed Jerod Haase, who left UNC to become the head coach at UAB.

Williams recently has been devoting his attention to recruiting, and he said he’d be doing the same this weekend. After this weekend, though, he will come closer to naming a new assistant.

“Really the meat of the work is going to be done after this weekend’s recruiting period,” Williams said. “I feel pretty good about it.”

The opening on the Tar Heels’ staff has created plenty of interest. Williams said 14 former North Carolina players have contacted him about the job. He also said three players he coached at Kansas showed an interest in joining the Tar Heels’ staff.

“I love them,” Williams said of the former Kansas players who had contacted him. “[I] told them I love them, but this next hire is going to be somebody from the University of North Carolina.”

Some other points of interest from Williams’ talk at the McGlohon Theater in Charlotte:

--During a question-and-answer session with those in attendance, a UNC supporter expressed frustration about the state of officiating during the past season, and he asked Williams how best he could voice his concerns. Williams said he empathized with the fan.

“It’s hard,” Williams said. “I don’t mind telling you. I mean, this year I called [the ACC director of men’s basketball officiating] John Clougherty [for] the first time in three years … but it’s frustrating to me.”

Williams indicated that he called Clougherty to discuss the play when Tyler Zeller was pushed in the back late in the Tar Heels’ 85-84 defeat against Duke at the Smith Center in February. After the push, Zeller inadvertently tipped in Ryan Kelly’s missed shot, and the moment played a key role in the Blue Devils’ comeback.

“He got shoved like crazy in the back,” Williams said. “And the TV cameras didn’t show it as much as one of the cameras that we use for coaching purposes. And I mean, it was just a huge play, four feet in front of the official. So I called about it. And there’s not anything that happens, because it is a very difficult game to officiate. Understand that. You know, it’s snap decisions and we understand that. But I share with you some of that frustration.

“And there’s not a lot you can do. You know, you can call call-in shows, or something like that, and voice your frustrations if that makes you feel better, go ahead. I wish I could do that, too … it’s frustrating, there’s no question. It’s frustrating. Even the NCAA tournament game, against Kansas. We’ve got fouls to waste. I mean, poor Stilman’s trying to tackle the guy. He wouldn’t have been a very good defensive back. He’s trying to tackle a guy from the center line all the way in, and they finally call a foul when the ball’s laid up.

“Because we had fouls to waste at that time … if I get fined for that, that’s all right, too.”

--Another interesting moment of Williams’ talk also involved Duke. And, in particular, Mason Plumlee. During the q-and-a session, a man asked Williams why he stopped recruiting Plumlee, who will be a senior forward for the Blue Devils next season. The person who asked the question, in perhaps an error of phrasing, implied that Williams might be shy about going head-to-head against Mike Krzyzewski in a recruiting battle.

“I went to freakin’ Ames, Iowa [to recruit Harrison Barnes] 11 times and his [butt] went twice,” Williams said of Krzyzewski. “… Don’t tell me I ain’t going to go head-to-head.”

And then Williams described what happened while he was recruiting Plumlee.

“It was pretty simple, and if you want to put it this way, which I do, it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. Because I needed two post players. And all of a sudden I get a phone call from the Wear family in California … and all of a sudden we had two post players. We did not have a scholarship for a third.

“And we had been recruiting Mason, we had been recruiting the Wears longer. … So that was what it was right there. I love Mason Plumlee. He’s one of the neatest kids. His family’s great. I loved him. But at that point, we didn’t call and say we’ll stop recruiting you. It was sort of like, you know, there’s already two post players in that class. And we had already got John Henson before that.”
So there you have it.

--Williams broke down UNC’s incoming recruiting class at one point on Wednesday night:

“Marcus Paige, the little point guard from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is really good. And coach Smith would never say something like that … Marcus has a chance to be special. He broke his foot in the McDonald’s All-American game – that’s why he wasn’t here [in Charlotte] for the Jordan [Brand Classic] game. But he’s left-handed, similar to Kendall [Marshall], a little better athletically, not as good a passer. But Kendall’s probably the best passer I’ve ever seen.

“J.P. Tokoto, a 6-6 small forward, Vince Carter type athleticism. Has to shoot it better, has to handle it better. And then the two big kids – Brice Johnson from down the road right outside of Orangeburg, South Carolina – 6-9 athlete, quick muscle fiber, those quick twitches everybody likes to talk about. Blocks a shot, can rebound the ball. Really has to work harder to get much more physical. He’s 6-9, probably 200, 205. But that’s like Schwarzenegger compared to what John Henson was.

“And then the biggest one was Joel James – 6-10. The first time I saw him a year and a half ago, [he] was 6-10, 310. Now he’s 6-10, 260. And if he were to walk in this room you would say, ‘Oh, my.’ So he passes the look test. We’ve got to get him passing the playing test, too.”

--In describing the season that ended about a month ago, Williams said it was “a great, great year with a very sad ending.” He said what upset him the most was that “this team really didn’t have a chance to celebrate.” …

But, Williams said, “I will tell you, this is more of a private thing, but on [a] Saturday night in Durham, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, we celebrated our [butts] off.”

Williams told the story about how Oklahoma one year won the Big 8 regular season championship with a victory at Kansas. And so the Sooners cut down the nets at Allen Fieldhouse. Williams told himself that he’d never be part of such a thing, whether he was on one end or the other – winner or loser. No team was going to cut down the nets in his building. And he wouldn’t be doing that on the road, either.

Still, part of Williams thought about cutting down the nets that early-March night in Durham.
“I did have that thought in Cameron,” he said. “Decided that would probably cause a scene.”

--Williams spent some time trying to evaluate what kind of team the Tar Heels will be next season. But he said that’s difficult to do. Still, he’s looking forward to learning what kind of team this will become.

“We’ve always said it’s the name on the front of the jersey, not just the name on the back,” Williams said. “And James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock got more playing time than anybody else. We’re going to ask them to step up. Dexter [Strickland] and Leslie [McDonald] will hopefully get healthy – we’re going to ask them to step up.

“Those other guys that didn’t get as many minutes, they’ve got to step up and be better players for us. And then the four incoming freshmen. It’ll be an exciting year. And I really believe that. I think it’ll be a year that we’ll really band together and try to have everything and care about their team.”

One thing is clear: Williams doesn’t expect UNC’s playing style to change.

“I want to run the ball up and down the floor,” Williams said. “If you see us walking the ball down the court, playing a 2-3 zone, it means that I saw somebody an important position doing something, and I’m in the witness protection program.”

--One last thing: Williams and UNC football coach Larry Fedora will be paired up together in the upcoming Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament. Fedora isn’t much of a golfer. Williams, if you know anything about him, is.

So naturally, Williams is intrigued to see what Fedora might look like on the course.

“I’m excited about playing in the golf tournament with him,” Williams said. “Now he says he doesn’t play at all, and all that kind of stuff. I guarantee-dadgum-tee you one thing: I’m going to laugh more than anybody else out there. So we’ll have some fun with him.”

And there you have it.

-Andrew Carter

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Childress has new basketball role at Wake Forest

   Randolph Childress, who provided one of the most memorable performances in the Deacons' long basketball history, has rejoined the program as director of player development.

   Childress has held an administrative role within the Wake Forest athletic department since August after retiring from professional basketball last year.

  “My family and I are excited about this opportunity,” Childress said in a statement from the school. “I love Wake Forest, and to have a chance to work with the basketball program on a daily basis is a dream come true. I look forward to helping build a program that Wake Forest fans and the Wake Forest community can be proud of. I’m ready to go to work.”

  Childress played an off-the-court mentorship role with the basketball student-athletes last season and will see those duties increase as he joins the staff full-time.

   In 1995, Childress was spectacular in earning ACC Tournament MVP honors as the Deacons won their first conference championship in 33 years.  Childress played two NBA seasons and played professionally overseas for more than a decade.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

McKillop: No contact from Virginia Tech

   Davidson basketball coach Bob McKillop's name is one of many that have been mentioned in conjunction with the opening at Virginia Tech in the aftermath of coach Seth Greenberg's dismissal Monday.
   McKillop, who has been head coach at Davidson since 1989, said Tuesday he has not been contacted about the Virginia Tech job.
  "No one has talked to me," McKillop said. "It's an intriguing situation. It's in the ACC and it's a great school."
   Speculation at Virginia Tech immediately focused on three in-state college coaches, Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth, Chris Mooney of Richmond and Old Dominion's Blaine Taylor.
   McKillop has been busy since the Wildcats' season ended with a first-round loss to eventual Final Four participant Louisville. He said the Wildcats' 2012-13 schedule is nearing completion and includes a Jan. 2 game against Duke in Time Warner Cable Arena, a Thanksgiving weekend tournament in Orlando, Fla., with Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Clemson and others, as well as road games at Richmond and Penn.
   McKillop said no date has been set for Davidson's annual game against the Charlotte 49ers. He is also trying to line up a game for the Wildcats in New York's Madison Square Garden.
-- Ron Green Jr.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller share UNC MVP honors

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina held its annual postseason basketball awards ceremony last Thursday night. And for some reason, I missed the release about it. My apologies. Senior forward Tyler Zeller and sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall received co-MVP honors during the ceremony, which was closed to the public and to the media.

Zeller at the end of the regular season received ACC Player of the Year honors while Marshall, who set an ACC single-season record with 351 assists, earned second-team All-ACC honors. Marshall joined sophomore forward Harrison Barnes and junior forward John Henson in leaving school early to enter the NBA draft.

Zeller and fellow senior Justin Watts were named permanent captains for the 2011-12 Tar Heels.

Here’s the complete list of winners:

Most Valuable Players: Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller

Mary Francis Award, Highest Field Goal Percentage: Tyler Zeller

Martha Jordan Award, Highest Free Throw Percentage: P.J. Hairston

Foy Roberson Award, Most Inspirational: Justin Watts

Carmichael-Cobb Award, Top Defender: John Henson, Tyler Zeller

John Lotz Award, Most Assists: Kendall Marshall

Oscar Vatz Award, Best Rebounder: John Henson

Butch Bennett Award: James Michael McAdoo

Jimmie Dempsey Award, Most Improved: James Michael McAdoo

Team Captains: Justin Watts, Tyler Zeller

Senior Awards: Stewart Cooper, Patrick Crouch, David Dupont, Justin Watts, Tyler Zeller

Athletic Director’s Burgess McSwain Scholar-Athlete Award: Tyler Zeller

Also, be sure to check out the well-done season-in-review video that the folks over at put together. You can find that right here.

- Andrew Carter

Monday, April 16, 2012

UNC a No. 2 seed in first 2012-13 NCAA tournament projection

CHAPEL HILL — Today is April 16. So you know what that means: It’s time to talk 2012-13 NCAA men's basketball tournament projections.

Joe Lunardi, the noted NCAA tournament bracketologist, has released his first projection of the preseason. (Is it even late enough in the year to consider this the “preseason?” I digress.)

Lunardi has UNC as the No. 2 seed in the East region, playing against No. 15 Vermont in Philadelphia. Of course, the Tar Heels defeated Vermont in the second round of the tournament last month in Greensboro, so this would be a highly-anticipated grudge match.

Among other ACC teams, Lunardi’s first projection includes Duke as a No. 3 seed in the South, N.C. State as a No. 4 seed in the Midwest, Miami as a No. 8 seed in the South and Florida State as a No. 12 seed in the West. Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville are your No. 1 seeds, with UNC in Louisville’s region.

It’s fun to talk about … but I’d hold off on making those reservations for Philadelphia.

- Andrew Carter

Thursday, April 5, 2012

James Michael McAdoo is returning to UNC: What it means

North Carolina received some disappointing – but not unexpected – news last week, when Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall all announced they were leaving school to enter the NBA draft. Today, though, the Tar Heels received some good news.

James Michael McAdoo, the freshman forward, is coming back to school. Here’s the story.

Obviously, this is great news for UNC, which had already lost its four best players from a season ago (including Tyler Zeller, the senior who earned ACC Player of the Year honors). McAdoo’s return means that the Tar Heels will have back at least one proven frontcourt player. And that’s better than having no proven frontcourt players, which would have been the case had McAdoo left.

McAdoo arrived at UNC amid high expectations, but he struggled through the first half of his freshman season. But he began to emerge in late January, and then played a key role for the Tar Heels in March – especially when Henson sat out three games after suffering a left wrist injury during the ACC tournament.

McAdoo is likely to be the focal point of UNC’s offense during the 2012-13 season. As his freshman season progressed, he showed a consistent ability to make the medium-range jump shot, and to be an effective offensive rebounder. Some of best scoring opportunities came off of offensive rebounds. During the summer, McAdoo is most likely to spend his time working on his interior post-up game.

Here’s what McAdoo had to say about his decision. He released these comments in a statement from UNC:

“I’ve had several discussions about my future plans with my family and Coach [Roy] Williams and have decided to return to UNC to continue playing for the Tar Heels and continue my education. I love being at Carolina and really enjoy competing with and being around my teammates and am excited about what we can do together next season.

Every young basketball player wants to have as much information about his future and understand what others in the game think about him. It’s been interesting to learn the information that Coach Williams has gathered, but I am ready to continue as a Tar Heel.

“I’m enjoying my time in Chapel Hill and am excited about the future for my team and me.”

With McAdoo back, here’s a guess at what the Tar Heels’ starting five could look like at the start of the 2012-13 season:

PG: Marcus Paige, freshman
SG: Dexter Strickland, senior
SG/SF: Reggie Bullock, junior
SF/PF: James Michael McAdoo, sophomore
PF/C: Brice Johnson, freshman

Figure the first two players off the bench being shooting guards Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, and add in freshman small forward J.P. Tokoto, and UNC still has the makings of a team that could compete for the ACC championship.

-Andrew Carter

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

UNC recruit Marcus Paige has stress fracture in foot, will miss Jordan Brand Classic in Charlotte

North Carolina basketball recruit Marcus Paige has a stress fracture in his left foot, but his high school coach expects him to be healed by the time he arrives at UNC in June.

Paige, a standout point guard at Linn-Mar High in Marion, Iowa, first noticed something was amiss with his foot while he competed in the McDonald’s All-American game last week in Chicago, said Chris Robertson, Paige’s coach at Linn-Mar. Paige was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the days after the game.

Robertson said the training staff at Linn-Mar has been in contact with Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, and with the athletic training staff at UNC. Paige is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday at the University of Iowa, Robertson said.

“By the time he leaves in June to head down [to North Carolina], he’ll be fine,” Robertson said.

With the departure of Kendall Marshall, who last week announced he was forgoing his final two  years of eligibility to enter the NBA draft, Paige is likely to enter UNC as the favorite to earn the Tar Heels’ starting point guard job. Robertson said Paige had been hoping that Marshall would remain in school, so that Paige could learn from him.

But with Marshall gone, Robertson said, “I think [Paige] looks at like, ‘Well, now I’ve got to be ready to go and contribute right away.’”

Because of his injury, Paige will not compete in the Nike Hoops Summit on Saturday in Portland, Ore. He will also miss the Jordan Brand Classic, which will be in Charlotte on April 14.

Robertson said Paige was initially disappointed that he’d be unable to compete in the upcoming all-star games, but that he was also relieved to learn that his injury isn’t likely to affect him after his arrival at UNC.
“He’s just so excited to get down to Carolina,” Robertson said.

-- Andrew Carter

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tar Heels recruit Marcus Paige is latest UNC injury

North Carolina's basketball season is over but the injury list just keeps growing.

Recruit Marcus Paige, predicted by many to take over the Tar Heels playmaker role in 2012-13, has been scratched from a weekend all-star game in Portland, Ore.

Paige, a 6-foot-1 left-hander, suffered a foot injury at some point late last week during practice sessions in Portland.

The extent of the injury isn't known at this point. Efforts were not immediately successful to reach officials at Portland's Hoop Summit or at Paige's high school in Marion, Iowa.

On his Twitter page (@marcuspaige15), Paige had a post saying that he was "kinda mad that I had to limp around ... my foot was all messed up ..."

Paige was replaced on the Hoop Summit roster by Pittsburgh signee James Robinson of Hyattsville (Md.) De Matha.

Still scheduled to participate in the Hoop Summit is Duke signee Rasheed Sulaimon.

The USA team will face a World Select team on Saturday night in Portland's Rose Garden arena.

UNC's season ended March 25 in St. Louis against Kansas in the NCAA Midwest championship game.

Late-season injuries to Kendall Marshall and John Henson undermined Tar Heel hopes to reach the Final Four.

- Caulton Tudor

Ryan Harrow next Kentucky playmaker?

Like several Kentucky non-seniors, freshman playmaker Marquis Teague will have to make a quick decision about returning to school or entering the NBA.

If the 6-foot-2 Teague enters the June 28 draft, as widely predicted by many national analysts, the next Kentucky playmaker likely will be Ryan Harrow, formerly of N.C. State.

After one season with the Wolfpack, Harrow transferred shortly after Mark Gottfried was hired (April 5, 2011) to replace Sidney Lowe as head coach.

In 29 games at State, Harrow averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 assists but was inconsistent on offense, a defensive liability and frequently fatigued.

At Kentucky, Harrow has used the year to gain 15 pounds (now 6-2, 165) and work on his stamina.

"I definitely feel stronger," Harrow told reporters in early February. "I go in the weight room with a cut off T-shirt and lift weights because you get a little bit more buffed when you lift the weights and look in the mirror than when you are just walking around."

In the team media guide, Kentucky coach John Calipari says of Harrow: "Ryan should be in the best position of any point guard I have ever coached because he's got a year to be tutored without the pressure of having to play."

In the Oct. 26, 2011 preseason team Blue-White game, Harrow played 14 minutes and finished with 10 points, four assists and one turnover.

If Teague returns, Calipari could have an embarrassment of riches at point guard, but Teague (9.9 ppg, 4.8 assists) and Harrow have enough height to play a few minutes each game on the wing.

- Caulton Tudor