Who’s Got Next? Top Centers to ACC, Isaac Hamilton Picks UTEP, Syracuse Adds Tyler Roberson…

Posted by CLykins on November 20th, 2012

Who’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Chad Lykins, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions dedicated solely to Duke Basketball at Duke Hoop Blog. You can also follow Chad at his Twitter account @CLykinsBlog for up-to-date breaking news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: ESPN Recruiting used for all player rankings

Kennedy Meeks Chooses UNC Over Georgetown

Two schools consistently stood out above the rest for West Charlotte High (North Carolina) center Kennedy Meeks. Appropriately, both schools have had a long and successful history in landing and producing top big men. With his recruitment winding down, Georgetown and North Carolina were in a neck-and-neck battle that left most national recruiting pundits undecided. On Friday, Meeks made it official as he will remain in his home state and play for the Tar Heels and head coach Roy Williams.

Charlotte native Kennedy Meeks picked UNC over Georgetown

“I talk to Roy Williams almost every other day. He understands the recruiting process and gives me good advice about college and about being a great player,” Meeks said of his decision. “Coach Williams said he liked my tenacity, my desire to play the game, my rebounding and outless passing.” Ranked as the No. 20 overall prospect and No. 2 center in the class of 2013, the 6’9″, 275-lb. big man is expected to contribute right away during his freshman season. Due to his size, Meeks is a true center that impacts the game significantly down low. With an extremely wide frame, he has a soft touch around the rim and is able to rebound at an extremely high rate by carving out space. One of his better traits is his passing. Whether it’s his superior outlet passing skills or if it’s out of the low-post, he exhibits excellent vision for a big man. There is no question regarding his talent and skill, but his conditioning has been a constant issue in the past. With North Carolina’s up-tempo style of play, it is extremely necessary for him to arrive at Chapel Hill in the best playing shape of his young life. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: #11 UNC 95, Mississippi State 49

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

rushedreactions

Some quick thoughts from today’s Maui Invitational quarterfinal game between UNC and Mississippi State…

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The UNC Guards Are Big, Deep and Talented. This is a completely different type of North Carolina team from the last couple of seasons, and frankly, given a Roy Williams’ system that looks to get into transition at every available opportunity, it may work a little better. With all the size along the Tar Heel front line last year, it sometimes felt like the Heels got bogged down in the half court, but this year’s group doesn’t seem to have that same problem. At least not today, when a Mississippi State defense gave them every opening they wanted — to the tune of 15 threes (the fourth most in school history) and 21 assists — Roy Williams found a reason to be upset with his defense in the postgame (UNC held MSU to 27% shooting), but the fortunes of his team are going to ride on PJ Hairston, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock, and Dexter Strickland (combined for 65 points today).
  2. Carolina’s Young Size is Raw But Promising. It won’t show up on the stat sheet as very impressive, but the trio of Joel James, Brice Johnson, Desmond Hubert and JP Tokoto is a collection of raw talent whose size, springiness and hustle are going to win Carolina some games this season. The seven-foot James is somewhat reminiscent of a young Brendan Haywood, while the beauty of the others is that they aren’t expected to score in favor of hustling and protecting the rim. Williams’ teams are at their best with featured guard and wing play, so this team’s interior corps, already seeming to already understand its role in the scheme, will serve the Heels well going into the heart of the season.
  3. Mississippi State Has a Long Way to Get Back to Respectability. Rick Ray seemed rather disappointed after this game, and why wouldn’t he be? The realization that his team is roughly 40 to 50 points worse than a top 10 opponent is humbling to say the least. His group of inexperienced players were clearly shaken by the match-up at the opening tip, finding themselves down 9-0, 29-6, and 40-15 at various parts of the first half. They were never able to figure out how to find a good shot in the UNC defensive creases, and turnovers (21) were a major problem. The one bright spot was the hustle and play of Gavin Ware off the bench — he contributed eight points, nine rebounds and two blocks against a much bigger front line.

Star of the Game. PJ Hairston, North Carolina. Hairston had the shot of the game (not the week, thanks to Rotnei Clarke) when his 60-footer at the buzzer of the first half found net. But his all-around game set the pace for the Tar Heels with 18 points (on 7-11 shooting), four rebounds, and three blocks this afternoon.

Quotable. We asked Roy Williams what he thought about Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten, and this was his response:

  • “Stunned, shocked… Didn’t see it coming… Strange what’s going on with college athletics… Hate to see them go, but if they don’t want to be there… [hand motion waving goodbye].”

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North Carolina Still Figuring Out Its Center Position Before Heading West…

Posted by KCarpenter on November 11th, 2012

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after the UNC-Florida Atlantic game in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

North Carolina looks deep. In its 80-56 victory Sunday afternoon over the Florida Atlantic Owls, UNC showcased a scary depth and commitment to defense. Nine players played double-digit minutes, Florida Atlantic shot only 27.9% from the field, and the bench shined in what was an almost perfectly balanced effort by the starters and reserves. The bench contributed 39 out of 80 of North Carolina’s total points, with particularly good scoring games by Joel James, who scored 11 points, and Brice Johnson, who racked up 12 points in 12 minutes.

Joel James Appears to be the Strongest Candidate For UNC’s Center Position (AP Photo/Ted Richardson)

This of course brings up the still unanswered question of who will be the long term starter at the center position. Desmond Hubert started the first half of this game, but once again James earned the second half start. In 14 minutes of action, Hubert contributed zero points, three rebounds, two blocks, and two turnovers. Compared to the double-figure scoring efforts by James and Johnson (as well as eight rebounds for James and four for Johnson), it would be very strange if Hubert continued to start. James actually played more minutes than Hubert in this effort, and Johnson’s soft touch around the basket looks very impressive. With Roy Williams‘ stated trepidation about the defensive implications of playing Johnson and John Michael McAdoo at the same time, James seems like he may be North Carolina’s newest starter before too long.

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UNC: James Michal McAdoo Is A Star But The Rest Is Uncertain

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC correspondent and ACC microsite writer. He filed this report from Friday night’s UNC game versus Gardner-Webb.

James Michael McAdoo was expected to take a starring role for his North Carolina team and in the first game of this season, a 76-59 victory over Gardner-Webb, he showed what he could do as a star. With a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds (eight of which were on the offensive glass), McAdoo is clearly on the path to fulfilling his first-team All-ACC expectations. The team as a whole however, is clearly one that is a work in progress.

McAdoo Was a Man Among Boys Tonight (AP/Ted Richardson)

Desmond Hubert earned the fifth Tar Heel starting spot in the post, but he struggled, tallying only four rebounds and failing to score while turning the ball over twice in 13 minutes. He was also memorably bowled over by Mike Byron just a few minutes after tip. Roy Williams made a change by starting Joel James in the second half, and, for his part, James played with a lot of energy but he struggled to stay on the court, accruing four fouls in only 14 minutes of play. The question of the frontcourt rotation is clearly an unsolved riddle for this team, with Williams freely experimenting and looking for a combination that was effective on both ends of the court. Brice Johnson looked polished on offense, but in limited minutes it’s hard to draw too many conclusions about him. Roy Williams said afterward that he isn’t sure who will fill this spot for the next game.

The backcourt rotation also presented a puzzle. Freshman point guard Marcus Paige started and managed to tally four turnovers and zero assists in his 28 minutes, not exactly an auspicious start for the team’s chief playmaker. On the perimeter, one of UNC’s supposed best shooting teams in recent memory managed to shoot 1-of-12 from the field while going 9-of-19 from the free throw line. Granted, a lot of the poor shooting from the stripe was due to McAdoo’s 6-of-11.

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ACC M5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: While most of the ACC is starting out their season (tonight!) with some overmatched competition (with apologies to Virginia who will take on George Mason), Maryland is opening their season with a real challenge. Though this year’s Kentucky team is totally different from the beast that dominated college basketball last year, the Wildcats are still stacked with top recruits and still led by John Calipari. Maryland plans to put up a fight however, and the sudden eligibility of sensational wing Dez Wells puts a little muscle behind that hope. Though Calipari is making his traditional noise about how he feels his team is overrated and how he is concerned about the Terrapins, there is no doubt that Maryland is the underdog in this fight.
  2. Backing the Pack: Meanwhile in Raleigh, there remains at least one question: who will be the North Carolina State‘s fifth starter?Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Scott Wood are no-brainer starters for Mark Gottfried, but the final starting slot has not yet been named. Gottfried said that he isn’t sure who will start, while adding the caveat that he doesn’t think it matters too much. The most probable choice is that the coach will go with highly-touted freshman guard Rodney Purvis, though there is an outside chance that the spot will be earned by T.J. Warren. Of course, it could always be some wild card option, but these two are the most logical choices.
  3. ESPN: In Chapel Hill, Roy Williams is dealing with a similar issue. Freshman Marcus Paige has been named a starter along with veterans Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, and James Michael McAdoo. This leaves one open spot for North Carolina, and considering the named starters, the spot belongs to a big man. In the exhibition game, Desmond Hubert got the start, but freshman center Joel James shined when he got his turn. Williams suggests that little used sophomore Jackson Simmons and spindly freshman Brice Johnson could also get the start, but Hubert and James are the clear frontrunners for the spot with James holding an edge.
  4. Fox Sports: After a year spent playing home games in other peoples’ gyms, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finally have a home court. Tonight the first game tips off at McCamish Pavillion, the new name for the renovated Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The building connects the Yellow Jackets to their storied past while also showcasing a dramatic environment for home games. While certainly new video and sound equipment are clear upgrades, the coolest addition to this court has got to be GT’s embrace of theater-style lighting, the effect of lighting the court while keeping the stands relatively dark, an unabashedly neat effect that evokes Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers are playing (the Clippers use a different, more traditional lighting scheme). It’s a neat idea and one that will hopefully add some extra atmosphere to the rechristened Thrillerdome.
  5. Wilmington Star News: The preseason Wooden Award Watch List has been released and six ACC players have been unsurprisingly tapped for the list. North Carolina State’s C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo, and Florida State’s Michael Snaer represent the conference on the list. Considering that this list fairly closely mirrors most folks’ All-ACC First Team, there isn’t too much to complain about, though C.J. Harris and a couple players from Miami may have a reason to grouse. As always, this list doesn’t include any of the impact freshmen who are expected to make their mark upon the conference, though they will surely be added once they show what they can do in the college game.
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ACC Team Previews: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by ARowe on November 5th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the ACC microsite will release a preview for each of the 12 teams.  Today’s victim:  the North Carolina Tar Heels.

UNC certainly didn’t end the season like they expected, but the unfortunate timing of injuries to key players was mostly to blame. After Bob Cousy Award winning point guard Kendall Marshall went out with a fractured wrist against Creighton in the Sweet Sixteen, the Tar Heels struggled to recapture the offensive flow that led them to a 27-4 record and a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Elite Eight loss to Kansas goes to show that you shouldn’t judge an entire season by that team’s postseason finish, due to the unpredictable nature of a single elimination tournament.

Roy Must Reload Without the Magician Marshall Leading His Attack (News Observer/Robert Willitt)

The more costly losses in Chapel Hill occurred over the summer, as sophomores Marshall and Harrison Barnes, junior John Henson and senior Tyler Zeller moved on to the NBA. The Tar Heels lost four year-long starters who accounted for 57.5% of minutes played, 66% of points scored, 65% of field goals attempted, 69% of field goals made, 70% of free throws attempted and 73% of free throws made. While Roy Williams and staff have an extremely talented roster returning, there are a number of question marks that will need to be answered this season.

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ACC M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on November 5th, 2012

  1. Fayetteville Observer: The paper has unveiled a nice collection of articles and stories previewing the coming basketball season in the ACC, but my favorite is this listing of “under the radar” players. The list includes those who may not have the fame or star power (yet) of some of their contemporaries, but will nonetheless make a difference this season. The list is a blend of freshmen and players coming off seasons spent on the bench due to injury (Olivier Hanlan of Boston College is an example of the former and Julian Gamble at Miami illustrates the latter), but also highlights a few players who may be poised to grab your attention, notably Malcolm Brogdon of Virginia and K.J. McDaniels from Clemson.
  2. CBS Sports: No list of coaches on the hot seat would be complete without Jeff Bzdelik, the coach of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. While Bzdelik’s tenure in Winston-Salem has been filled with all sorts of complicating factors and problems, the fact remains that Wake Forest fans ultimately expect their team to win. After two miserable years of life at the bottom of the conference, this is a pivotal year for the program. Though Bzdelik will rely heavily on freshmen this season, Wake’s record needs to improve if the coach wants to keep his job.
  3. Testudo Times: Exhibition games are often fairly meaningless, but that doesn’t stop college basketball fans from trying to see if they can learn something about their team from them. Ben Broman looks at how Maryland performed in an exhibition against Indiana University (PA) and walks away with some interesting observations. Notably, the strong performances by freshmen Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell were unexpected and clear highlights, while mediocre performances by Alex Len and James Padgett offered reasons for concern. Clearly Terrapin fans were hoping for more polished and refined play from their returning frontcourt, but Mitchell’s voraciousness on the glass (15 rebounds in only 18 minutes) and Allen’s poise, ball-handling, and playmaking suggest that the incoming freshman class might make a big difference for Maryland.
  4. Wilmington Star News: Mason Plumlee is once again ready to be a featured part of this year’s Duke team. The ultra-athletic power forward come to Durham as a clear NBA lottery pick filled with talent, yet over the course of a mostly excellent college career he has failed to string together consistent performances, often vanishing at key moments. Now a senior, Plumlee is looking at a final chance to take a leading role on a team that has been largely perimeter-oriented in recent years. While there is some mention of how Duke’s lack of a featured true point guard in recent years has relegated the forward to supporting role status, Plumlee is optimistic about Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook playing a more traditional distribution role.
  5. Raleigh News & Observer: Down Tobacco Road, North Carolina has it’s eye on not a senior but a freshman big man. Joel James, however, is not the typical UNC freshman post player. While recent seasons have showcased the acumen of UNC’s strength and training staff in turning post players who look more like “posts” than “players” into more muscular athletes ready to bang down low (see: Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and yes this year’s version, Brice Johnson), James arrived at Chapel Hill as big as any freshman in recent memory.  At 6’10” and somewhere around 265 pounds, James offers true center size and muscle. Though relatively inexperienced as a basketball player, the coaches seem to be bullish on James and it looks like he may start his career as, well, a starter.
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ACC Summer Recess: North Carolina Tar Heels

Posted by KCarpenter on August 6th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: North Carolina.

Where They Stand Now

What do you do when you have a team that goes 14-2 during conference play and loses in the Elite Eight after its record-shattering point guard goes down with an injury? In Chapel Hill, you are deeply disappointed in a team that arguably underperformed. The loaded Tar Heels were near helpless after Kendall Marshall‘s injury, struggling to execute on offense, and the surfeit of NBA-caliber talent all amounted to nothing against a Kansas team that came prepared to capitalize on North Carolina’s weaknesses. Most teams would still call a season like that a success, but for UNC fans, the 2012-13 ended in incredibly disappointing fashion.

Roy Williams Will Have to Put the Pieces Together With His 2012-13 Squad

Who’s Leaving

Everyone. Well, not quite, but like Florida State, the Tar Heels are facing quite a bit of turnover. ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson now plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. Harrison Barnes, an All-ACC First Team selection, is now with the Golden State Warriors, while Kendall Marshall, the all-time assists in a season record-holder for the conference and Bob Cousy Award winner for the nation’s top point guard, is now with the Phoenix Suns. Stilman White, the team”s back-up point guard, is leaving for two years to work as a Mormon missionary. The team is also losing the services of the versatile fan-favorite Justin Watts to that scourge called graduation. In short, next year’s team will be near unrecognizable from last year’s team.

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Afternoon Delight: Of Wooden Watches and Recruiting Gains

Posted by KCarpenter on October 3rd, 2011

Some afternoons, we’re going to do our best to point you to the developing stories and thoughtful writing from all over the ACC that has turned up during the course of the day.  So without further ado, here’s your Afternoon Delight.

Barnes And Three Teammates Set Wooden Award Record

  • Four players from North Carolina have been named to the Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list. Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller all made the cut for consideration of the most prestigious individual award in college basketball. Four guys picked from one school is the record in the history of the list, which is impressive for UNC, but less impressive for the rest of the conference; outside of the Carolina four, not a single other ACC player was tabbed. Who do you think should have made the cut? Matt’s got some thoughts that he’d like to share with you tomorrow.
  • Jeff Borzello, of course, has the recruiting scoop for this weekend. While NC State had the big score landing Rodney Purvis, Wake Forest took an important step forward after last year’s disastrous season by landing 6’6″ small forward, Arnaud Adala-Moto. Likewise, North Carolina finally closed the deal on the big 6’10” Joel James. Both are nice gets, but Adala-Moto’s recruitment is an incredible sign for the Wake Forest faithful that Jeff Bzdelik might just be able to turn this thing around.
  • Unfortunately, things seem increasingly dire at Maryland, with a mounting school-wide budget problem being compounded by an athletic department that has been operating with monetary losses for the past few years. While there has been movement to look for answers, it seems like so far there’s been little action. In late September, the Washington Post reported on a forum, open to the public, where ideas on how to fix the budget problem were solicited.  Sadly, the most widely suggested idea was that excessive profanity in the Comcast Center has been keeping families from taking in Maryland basketball games.
  • A student paper for Boston College, The Heights, weighs in on expansion. For BC, the glass is half-empty and Matt Ulrich lays out the case for why the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh will hurt the Eagles in recruiting and league play. Boston College, positioned as a league middleweight, can’t help but see two to four extra losses in ACC play and tournament dreams that will now be even harder to achieve.
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