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Thursday, November 8, 2012
Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

By Robbi Pickeral

Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops (and other related teams/issues/topics). Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

One day until the regular-season tip-off. Who else is ready to get 2012-13 started?

Sean from Hopkins, Minn., writes: How is Hubert Davis adjusting as he transitions from TV to coaching? What does Roy view Davis' role as this season, and how much responsibility will Davis be taking on?

Pickeral: The players say they love having Davis as an assistant coach. They tout his youth and NBA experience -- and the wings, in particular, have enjoyed soaking in a bunch of tips from a guy who has made his share of outside shots.

“I think Hubert’s going to help us in many ways,’’ UNC coach Roy Williams said on Monday night’s radio show. “They listen to Roy Williams, they listen to [assistants] Joe Holladay, Steve Robinson, C.B. McGrath. But the bottom line is, every one of those kids want to make the NBA -- and here’s a guy who did it. So I think that’s very important. He says something to you, he’s been there, he’s been where you want to go. And how did he get there? He allowed Coach [Dean] Smith to coach him, and I think that’s an important trait he carries over.

“He is a great shooter, he’s really, really good on the court with the kids. He’s much quieter now than he will be the next year and the next year. But he’s going to get better and better at everything. The bottom line is this is the first year he’s really coached, but he’s getting better every day and those kids are going to benefit from it.”

Davis is also helping out with the JV team, and I expect he'll take his turn coaching it next year.

Williams reiterated that replacing Jerod Haase, now head coach at UAB, was difficult, but he found the right person in Davis, a UNC alum.

“I helped recruit Hubert,’’ Williams said. “I loved him when I saw him in camp as a little kid, loved him when we recruited him. I remember the in-home visit, Coach Smith said 'Hubert, I think it might be very difficult for you to play at North Carolina.' And I spoke up very defensively, because I didn't like to do that in front of Coach Smith, and I said 'Coach, I think he'll play more than we think.'

"I just trusted Hubert that much. Needless to say, he had a great career here. The best role model, the best person that I could ever think about for the job of taking Jerod Haase's place is Hubert. And he's been phenomenal."


Jeff Mullins from N.C. writes: With so much talk about Marcus [Paige], J.P. [Tokoto] and Joel [James], I feel like Brice Johnson has slipped under the radar. What were your impressions of his play in the exhibition game against Shaw?

Pickeral: Athletic. Multitalented. But very thin.

The reason Johnson likely has been hidden in the background (at least media-wise) so far is that classmate Joel James has cast such a large shadow. At 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds, it was impressive how James was able to run the floor and contribute in the preseason game, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Tar Heels to have a little bulk in the lane.

But as David Adler of The Daily Tar Heel pointed out after that exhibition, UNC outscored Shaw 42-8 when Johnson was on the floor. He finished the game with eight points, six rebounds, a block, an assist and a steal in 13 minutes.

If he can do that during the regular season, he’ll earn more playing time. But Williams has said he’s worried Johnson will get pushed around in the post by bigger foes, and at 6-foot-9 and 187 pounds, that is reason for concern.


Shawn from N.C. writes: Is Marcus Paige really only 157 pounds? That’s a typo, right?

Pickeral: No typo. According to UNC, the freshman point guard really did measure/weigh in at 6-foot and 1/2 inch and 157 pounds.

And no one can seem to remember a lighter guy starting for the Tar Heels, at least in the modern era. (If you can, please let me know.) Even third-stringer Stilman White, who started two games in the NCAA tournament last season as a freshman, was listed at 6-0, 160.


Godjlove (no city listed) writes: Any Carolina team that has won anything and been exciting to watch from a real fan standpoint is when the 1st 5 always had a player from New York. I go back to Jimmy Black.

Pickeral: Well, just looking at the NCAA title teams: the 1957 squad was led by Lennie Rosenbluth (The Bronx); in 1982, as you mentioned, there was Jimmy Black (The Bronx); Derrick Phelps (Queens, NY) started in 1993; and Danny Green (North Babylon, NY) started in 2009.

But what about 2005 championship team? The closest I can find on that roster is walk-on Jesse Holley (Roselle Park, NJ), also a receiver on UNC's football team. But he wasn't a starter.