So it is that time of year again. Basketball has started. Ahhh, the smell of fall in the air and the squeak of shoes on the court.
Tonight, I went with my mom and Vivian to the UNC- Shaw exhibition game. It is always fun to meet the at our carpooling spot and driving to Carolina. We got there early (we were with Kathy Dawn, you know) and as this game is first come, first served seating we were there when the doors opened. It is always nice to come back to the Dean Dome. Everything that stands still is painted Carolina Blue and the history of the game is hanging from the rafters.
The game started and I knew I was watching a young team. Two first years started for the Heels and for a while the Shaw Bears lead the game. It is nice having the 1-2 punch of Strickland and McDonald back, but I think this year is going to belong to James Michael McAdoo. I hope his shoulders are strong enough to carry the burden of a young, but talented team. Tonight he lead the team with 16 points and 8 rebounds. He is such a fun player to watch! Along with Strickland and McDonald, Hairston and Bullock need to find their leadership potential and direct the young talent that need their experience as the meet the teams that are on their schedule.
The numbers for both teams were down right pitiful tonight. Shaw had 33% FG, 25% 3 point shots, and 50% from the line. Not ways to win a game, especially against #11 UNC. The had height and there was talent in the maroon and gold uniform, but those numbers do no one a favor.
Now UNC, while they did win the game 81-54 they did not put their best foot forward. They had 44% shooting, 18% from beyond the arc (yes that is 1-8), and only 54% from the charity line. Those numbers do not a post season run make. This team is young, but this is Carolina Basketball and there is only so much time to learn. I saw a lot of sloppy passing and plays are still being cemented into brains. I know they are young (did I mention how much new blood was on the team), I just want them to shine!
All is not lost, however, in the midst of learning there were some shining moments and players to watch. #0 Joel James racked up 13 points and 7 rebounds tonight. There were moments of greatness in the sloppiness, but he is one to watch. I really think that his playing time with McAdoo will be nothing but great. He is a big man and in the spirit of most big men, they need time to grow into themselves and their playing. They usually light up around their junior year (I’m looking at you Brendan Haywood). #11 Brice Johnson is clearly skilled. Hopefully, tonight was just some first game nerves because he has an odd hesitation before his jump shot. I clearly saw it twice and those seconds can be powerful when it comes to conference play. He needs to practice himself out of that tic. Two players, #21 Jackson Simmons and #4 Luke Davis, had 7 and 8 minutes respectively They had some nice ball movement and useful time on the floor. First year player #25 JP Tokoto had a nice basket and I am looking forward to him having more minutes in the game.
Now, for me, the player I am most excited about is #5 Marcus Paige. I love a point guard. A team with a smart PG is already ahead in my book. He has big (or should I say quick) shoes to fill. He is wearing #5 and that was Ty Lawson’s number. And I love Ty Lawson. (To quote from a Mountain West commentator when UNC was playing Nevada, “Beep, Beep, he’s a speed urchin”). At UNC, Ty was quick, strong and made good decisions. I want all of those things for Paige because my favorite players are usually point guards. Scout.com has called him one of the best pure point guards in the country. Tonight, I saw sparks of greatness as he pressed down the floor with the ball. I think UNC has been missing that since Ty left and I want Paige to fill that role. He seems like a smart player who handles the ball well and has on point passing skills. I think he may need some conditioning in strength (really getting that ball all the way down the court) and quickness (has Ty made my expectations too high), but my attention will be on him as he grows and matures.
I saw Coach Williams as he came into the Dean Dome before the game. He even waved to me! He looks healthy and ready for a busy season. I hope all is well with the kidney surgery!