North Carolina assistant coach Steve Robinson filled in for head coach Roy Williams during Williams' weekly Monday radio show.
Coach Robinson touched on a number of topics including the progression of the younger players on this year's Tar Heel's roster, the health status of veteran guard
Leslie McDonald, how P.J. Hairston can improve his consistency and what North Carolina did right against Maryland this past weekend.
"I was in charge of the first half," said Robinson in reference to North Carolina's blazing start in their 62-52 victory over Maryland Saturday afternoon. "I think we gave the second half to somebody else (on the coaching staff)."
Reggie Bullock was named the ACC's Player of the Week, the first Tar Heel to have that honor bestowed upon him this year.
Bullock finished the game against the Terps with 24 points and Robinson was quick to heap praise upon the Tar Heels leading man.
"It was an outstanding performance," Robinson said. "He was on fire there in the first half. Every time he touched it or shot it the guys on the coaching staff, (the guys) on the floor and on the bench stood up because they knew it was going in and he got on a roll. He kind of cooled off in the second half or Maryland did a much better job of recognizing where he was at and trying to make sure he didn't get as many open looks as he did in the first half."
"He (Bullock) moves well without the ball, he's taking good shots and our guys are doing a nice job of helping him get open," continued Robinson about the increased level of production Bullock has seen in ACC play (roughly 17 PPG and 6 RPG in ACC play).
North Carolina's defense set the tone early in the game against Maryland and ended up forcing 21 turnovers in an improved defensive effort from the Tar Heels.
"We were active. We got out in the passing lanes. We put pressure on the ball," said Robinson. "I think it forced Maryland into hurried shots and bad decisions."
Desmond Hubert played well against Maryland
and Robinson talked about Hubert's improvements as the season has gone along.
"He keeps coming. He has gotten better throughout the season. I think what he's given us is what he has," said Robinson. "He accepts and understands who he is as a player. A lot of times guys they want to average 30 points a game and get 15 rebounds-and you know we're not mad at you if you do that either---but if that's not what you do and it's not who you are at that time, then he can be effective by rebounding the basketball, playing good defense, setting good screens and he handles that."
Tar Heels' fans have concerns about the health status of Leslie McDonald who has missed three games in a row due to a tweaked knee. Coach Robinson talked about the status of McDonald and when fans might expect to see him back on the court.
"I think he's showing some signs of improvement and getting better. We didn't have practice today so there wasn't really anything that we'd gotten from the trainers in regards to that so right now we're still waiting to hear. Hopefully he continues to get better so he can get back out on the court," said Robinson.
P.J. Hairston has been a hot and cold player for the Tar Heels this season. When he's on he's one of the hardest players in the nation to stop from putting up big scoring numbers. When he's cold the Tar Heels lack much needed firepower offensively.
Robinson talked about Hairston and how he can be more consistent.
"If we knew the answer to exactly what P.J. would need to do to be more consistent, boy, we would have nailed that one on the head a long time ago," said Robinson, a comment which got some chuckles from the audience.
"But I think as he gains more experience and continues to play at a high level and understands how hard you've got to work, you know he's got to continue to work hard to get himself open where he can knock down shots."
"If you asked P.J. what he does best he would probably tell you he shoots the ball best," Robinson continued. "He shoots them deep and he shoots it consistently from there."
Finally, Robinson touched on the development of the younger Tar Heels, specifically Marcus Paige, Joel James and Brice Johnson.
"Well Marcus has started from day one. You look at his numbers in ACC play I think he's taken care of the basketball, distributing the basketball and I think he understands what's needed from him," said Robinson when talking about Paige. " We'd certainly like him to shoot a higher percentage but his shot looks good, we always think that he usually takes shots within the rhythm of the offense, he's got a good feel for driving the ball to the basket and trying to finish plays that way."
Robinson then talked about James.
"Joel had some good moments against Maryland. I do believe he's getting better. He's starting to understand," said Robinson. "For him it's unfortunate that he is so inexperienced in terms of playing the game. You would think that a guy that big would have played a lot of basketball but he just hasn't played. How he plays and what he does sometimes it's pretty evident that he just doesn't have the experience of playing."
"But I look at him and I get excited because I look at him and by the time he does become a junior or senior he could be a huge, huge factor to what we're trying to do."
Robinson then touched on Johnson's progression.
"Brice is a good scorer. He's got to get bigger and got to get stronger. That's something that happens over a period of time. We want it to happen now but it's not going to happen," said Robinson. "We just try to get the most minutes out of him."
One of the more interesting topics discussed was whether having so many young players makes it difficult for this year's North Carolina squad to develop team chemistry.
Robinson doesn't seem to think so.
"I think your biggest thing is the leadership of the players in the program," Robinson said. "I think that they have to be willing to help young guys. It shouldn't be a selfish thing. It should be something where for the good of the team we're going to do everything we can possibly can to be successful. If that's the case you help younger players become better players."