UNC coach Roy Williams is still deciding on his starting five for the season-opener against Gardner-Webb. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — One day before North Carolina begins the season here on Friday night against Gardner-Webb, four-fifths of the Tar Heels’ starting lineup appears set.
“I feel fairly comfortable about Marcus [Paige] and Dexter [Strickland] and Reggie [Bullock] and James Michael [McAdoo],” UNC coach Roy Williams said earlier today. “But that fifth spot, from one day to the next, I change quite a bit.”
That fifth spot, of course, represents a post position – and perhaps the Tar Heels’ only true post position. Paige, the freshman, will start his first collegiate game at point guard. Strickland and Bullock are both guards who will play on the wings. And while McAdoo is UNC’s most proven post player, he’s more of an inside-outside type who isn’t exactly a typical back-to-the-basket power forward.
So that leaves a wide opening – literally and figuratively – in the middle.
Desmond Hubert, a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward who played sparingly a season ago, started in UNC’s exhibition victory against Shaw. But Joel James, a 6-foot-10, 260-pound freshman, gave perhaps the most impressive performance of the Heels’ otherwise sluggish effort in the exhibition. James has only been playing organized basketball since his sophomore year of high school, but he already has developed an effective repertoire of moves, and his footwork is sound for his size.
Still, James apparently hasn’t earned the starting job. At least not yet.
“As we’re sitting here right now, I still do not who I’m going to start,” Williams said. “And I really don’t. And the staff, we talked about it in a staff meeting this morning … I really don’t [know who will start]. I’m waiting for somebody to step up and say, ‘I’m going to deserve that.’ But it may be OK if it’s not.
“You know, we may change the lineup throughout the course of the pre-conference season, too.”
Few would be surprised if Hubert, the more experienced player, starts the season-opener before giving way to James at some point later on. James arrived on campus just a few months ago and instantly became the most physically imposing member on the team. Whether his size and presence translates into a starting position from day one, though, remains to be seen.