November 15, 2013

Rookies Look to Make Impact

North Carolina returns several key players from last year's team, as the Tar Heels are looking to replace Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland from last year squad that lost to Kansas in the round of 32.

In the 2012-2103 season, Roy Williams had to go to a smaller line-up last in the season, as the Tar Heels finished the season out strongly.

The Tar Heels shouldn't have that problem this year with their depth down low, as Williams was able to snag up two great down low threats in Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks.

Williams also received help at the point guard position this year in Nate Britt, who is a great back up for Marcus Paige and is getting some early experience for the Tar Heels.

Now that the season has started and the freshmen have a game under their belt, Tar Heel Illustrated will go in-depth about what one can expect to get out of the freshmen this year for North Carolina, as they are sure to make an impact in the 2013-2014 season.

Nate Britt

Britt made his first start as a freshman last week against Oakland, as he will be a key factor early in the season; maybe a little earlier than he thought when coming to North Carolina.

With the recent offseason troubles the Tar Heels have faced, Paige has been moved to the shooting guard position, while Britt has led the team at point guard.

But Britt seems to have taken the bull by the horns and he couldn't have done it without Paige, who had to go through the same thing last year, giving Britt a little bit of an advantage.

"It's been great," Britt said last week after the game against Oakland. "He has been helping since the summer and I think if he didn't go through what he did last year, he wouldn't have been able to help me as much he did."

"He knows pretty much about everything, how coach wants his point guards to play, so he has been teaching me the whole time and I think it has been a great advantage coming into the season."

Last week, Britt had four points and three assists, while also turning the ball over three times; however, he was able to manage the game pretty well for the Tar Heels, as he logged in 22 minutes in the game.

Britt won't be the scorer on the team, not like what Paige is going to be depended on and once the full roster is back for the Tar Heels, Britt is expected to be the backup point guard behind Paige.

Even though at a backup position, Britt is playing a huge roll for the Tar Heels, who didn't have a true point guard behind Paige last year, as he had to log 30 or more minutes in most games last season. Britt will be looked at to control the game, deliver at the point guard position, but not necessarily but the ball in the net.

Even though any points from him are a true benefit, game management will be the key factor this season for Britt, not turning the ball over and playing consistent basketball when called on.

Britt sat out last season in high school and it will certainly take a few games to get Britt acquainted with how the offense runs under Williams, but one could say that Britt might be one of the most important players on the floor, in case anything might happen to their starting point guard.

If not, Britt certainly frees up minutes for Paige to sit and rest, something that Williams has mentioned before, as he knows he can't push Paige as much as he did last year.

Kennedy Meeks

Meeks came into Chapel Hill with some weight issues as everyone knows. But Meeks has worked very hard in the off-season and was able to knock his weight down to 290, getting him in much better shape to play under Williams.

Coming in, many might have thought that Meeks would struggle in the way Williams runs his offense, but one could say that Meeks has been a pleasant surprise so far early in the season and looks like he could be a key contributor off the bench in the post.

Meeks came in to North Carolina known as a great outlet passer, as Williams mentioned him as one of the best he has ever seen. But his hands aren't just great in his passing ability but also with his scoring and rebounding ability, really being able to control his body down low and attacking the rim.

Against Oakland, Meeks played 13 minutes and scored 10 points and have five rebounds, while dishing out two assists.

Meeks certainly won't be the starter in the beginning but could see his minutes increase significantly by the end of the year if he is able to produce like he has early. One can certainly see the possibility of a battle between Joel James and Meeks continue throughout the year, as James played 14 minutes against Oakland.

Meeks has been a pleasant surprise early on but will have to continue to play like he has, whether it is scoring, rebounding, or just getting the Tar Heels out and running. As mentioned before, the frontcourt is full of talent, as James Michael McAdoo is the only player that is certain to get minutes early in the season.

There certainly will be a battle between James, Meeks, Brice Johnson, Hicks, and Desmond Hubert on who can provide that big body down low.

Meeks has to continue his scoring ability while attacking the glass throughout the season, as he could be a key contributor to a team down low and could be a resemblance of Sean May, who was a great player at North Carolina.

Isaiah Hicks

Hicks came in ranked as the highest player by Rivals, as he has the height and athletic ability to be a true threat down low. Even though Hicks might not have the body quiet yet to compete right off the bat for the Tar Heels, he was ranked as the prospect with the highest ceiling coming in.

The last time Tar Heel Illustrated was able to catch Hicks, it was when he put J.F. Webb on his back and posted a 30 point/ 30 rebound game on his way to a state championship; that just shows what Hicks is able to do.

Starting off though this season, Hicks will have to find his way into the rotation, possibly going through something that Johnson and James had to go through last year. Hicks will have to continue to develop his body throughout the season.

Hicks has the ability on the offensive side of the ball, getting up and down the court better than most big men in the class of 2013, while having the athletic ability to disrupt on the defensive side of the ball.

However, Hicks could be the one in this class that takes a little more time to find his game at the college level but he has the ability to provide a true back up threat behind McAdoo.

Hicks' numbers haven't jumped out so far this season, as he had two points in 11 minutes of play last week, but this is a guy that has the capable handles and springy step to produce valuable minutes while on the floor.

Yet again, Hicks still might have trouble seeing more minutes than the other two freshmen, being behind McAdoo and Johnson.

Either way though, the three freshmen will have a true impact, whether it is starting or coming off the bench, this year for the Tar Heels, as each one will play a certain role under Williams and continue to grow as a player.

Furthermore, there is nothing better than these young guys getting early playing time and understanding what will be needed from them throughout the year.

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