North Carolina Tar Heels: Tyler Zeller

Top 10 UK-UNC highlights of decade

December, 13, 2013
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Ranking the wins and losses of the Kentucky series during the last 10 seasons, which coincides with the Roy Williams era at North Carolina:

The UNC wins

1. The first Noel

Dec. 3, 2005: UNC 83, UK 79

[+] EnlargeDavid Noel
AP Photo\Ed ReinkeDavid Noel's dunk was a big play in North Carolina's win at Kentucky in 2005.
No play epitomized Carolina’s surprise upset the way David Noel’s baseline dunk summed up the entire game. UK and Rajon Rondo never saw it coming as the unranked and unheralded Heels, who lost seven players from the 2005 national championship team, beat the No. 10 Wildcats in Lexington. Reyshawn Terry scored a career-high 25 points for UNC.

2. Zeller goes off

Dec. 4, 2010: UNC 75, UK 73

Tyler Zeller had 27 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and went 10-for-10 from the free throw line. The unranked Tar Heels stumbled into the game with a 4-3 record but regained their swagger after knocking off the No. 10 Wildcats and later advanced to the Elite Eight.

3. Raise your hands

Dec. 4, 2004: UNC 91, UK 78

Williams asked his team in practice to raise their hands if they’d ever beaten Kentucky. Only the coaching staff had that experience until the Heels broke their four game losing streak in the series. A season after being held to just four points against UK, Rashad McCants scored 28 as the Heels cruised.

4. No Hansbrough, no problem

Nov. 18, 2008: UNC 77, UK 58

Deon Thompson scored 20 as the Tyler Hansbrough-less Heels, ranked No. 1, ran out to a 16-point lead and easily beat Kentucky. It was the final appearance for coach Billy Gillispie in the series.

5. Pulling the starters

Dec. 2, 2006: UNC 75, UK 63

Williams yanked his starting five early in the second half when they didn’t hustle on 50-50 plays. When he inserted the starters back in the lineup, Carolina had an 11-2 run and wasn’t threatened the rest of the game. Freshman Wayne Ellington led the Heels with 17 points.

6. Still No. 1

Dec. 1, 2007: UNC 86, UK 77

Carolina led by as many as 20 in winning its first game as the No. 1-ranked team against UK since 1981. Reserve Danny Green scored a career-high 20 points in Lexington.

The UNC losses

1. Frustrated and fouled out

March 27, 2011: UK 76, UNC 69

John Henson was just two blocks shy of tying Brendan Haywood’s single-season record, but foul trouble kept him from being a factor in the game. Henson got his fourth foul with 16 minutes left in the game and sat most of the second half of the East Regional final. Carolina was within 1 when DeAndre Liggins delivered a 3-point dagger with 35 seconds left. The Cats denied Roy Williams his fourth Final Four trip while at Carolina.

2. Block heard round the Commonwealth

Dec. 3, 2011: UK 73, UNC 72

Anthony Davis blocked Henson’s shot with seven seconds left and the stunned Heels didn’t react to foul as time ran out against the No. 1 Wildcats. The initial play went into Zeller on the blocks, but he lost control of the ball and it landed in Henson’s hands.

3. Fitch from 3

Jan. 3, 2004: UK 61, UNC 56

Gerald Fitch’s fadeaway 3-pointer with 23 seconds left capped the Wildcats’ comeback from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat Carolina in Williams’ first season in Chapel Hill.

4. Great Wall of Rupp

Dec. 5, 2009: UK 68, UNC 66

Carolina’s rally from a 19-point deficit came up short as Raleigh native John Wall scored 16 points had seven rebounds and seven assists in the first win in the series for John Calipari.

2014 class could be right piece

November, 14, 2013
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Roy Williams won two championships in Chapel Hill thanks in large part to three standout recruiting classes. On paper, he just landed a fourth on Wednesday.

Williams delivered one of the nation’s best recruiting classes and gave a comment on each:

Theo Pinson, a 6-foot-8 wing, is ranked eighth in the ESPN 100: “He can do almost everything on the court and do it well. He can handle the ball, pass, defend and he has tremendous savvy.

[+] EnlargeJustin Jackson
Chris Williams/Icon SMI2014 UNC signee Justin Jackson is the nation's top-ranked small forward.
Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-6 wing is ranked 13th: “He’s 6-8 with perimeter skills. He performed well last summer against tough competition, including at USA Basketball events.”

Joel Berry, a 6-foot-1 point guard, ranked 15th: “He is a true quarterback on the floor, but he has the ability to score as well.”

It matches the 2010 class of Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall for the highest average ranking. But the formula for winning titles doesn’t come with a talented class alone.

Williams has proven when he stacks classes the right way, Carolina contends for the title.

As you recall, Matt Doherty recruited the classes who proved to be the cornerstones of the 2005 national championship team. That included the 2002 class that featured Sean May, Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton.

Marvin Williams, from the class of 2004, proved to be a key addition to that team and was in Roy Williams’ first full recruiting class in Chapel Hill.

The starters for the 2009 title team came from portions of the 2005 (Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green) and 2006 (Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Deon Thompson) classes.

The team built to win in 2012 had key starters from three classes in Tyler Zeller (2008), John Henson and Dexter Strickland (2009) and Marshall and Barnes (2010).

Even if James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston are not on next year’s squad, the Heels will still have a nice blend of old and new talents from three straight classes. That once again could be the formula for a serious Final Four contender.

Pinson and Jackson in particular will give Carolina the depth and athleticism on the wings that it has lacked. Berry will team with Marcus Paige and Nate Britt to form one of the fastest back courts Williams has had at UNC.

UNC recruiting classes under Roy Williams

2004
J.R. Smith, SF
Marvin Williams, PF
Quentin Thomas, PG

2005
Tyler Hansbrough, PF
Danny Green, SG
Bobby Frasor, SG
Marcus Ginyard, PG
Michael Copeland, F

2006
Wayne Ellington, G
Ty Lawson, PG
Brandon Wright, PF
Deon Thompson, PF
Alex Stepheson, PF
Will Graves, SF

2007
None

2008
Ed Davis, PF
Tyler Zeller, C
Larry Drew, PG
Justin Watts, SG

2009
John Henson, PF
Dexter Strickland, SG
Leslie McDonald, SG
David Wear, PF
Travis Wear, PF

2010
Harrison Barnes, SF
Regge Bullock, SG
Kendall Marshall, PG

2011
James Michael McAdoo, PF
P.J. Hairson, SF
Desmond Hubert, C
Jackson Simmons, PF
Stillman White, PG

2012
Marcus Paige, PG
Joel James, C
Brice Johnson, PF
J.P. Tokoto, SF

2013
Isaiah Hicks, PF
Kennedy Meeks, C
Nate Britt, PG

2014
Theo Pinson, SF
Justin Jackson, SF
Joel Berry, PG

Position series: Power forward

October, 24, 2013
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This is the fourth installment of a position-by-position look at the Tar Heels.

Power forward should be a position of strength for Carolina this season. Junior James Michael McAdoo returns after starting every game last season. Sophomore Brice Johnson gained much-needed strength to his thin frame and will be able to hold his own. Freshman Isaiah Hicks adds a touch of athleticism and is arguably better than both McAdoo and Johnson at scoring around the basket. Junior Jackson Simmons has the experience and trust to contribute without trying to play outside of his skill set.

[+] EnlargeUNC/Kansas
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsJames Michael McAdoo should benefit from playing alongside a true center this season.
The Heels aren't as deep or as talented at any other position. That might be part of the reason why coach Roy Williams expects them to rebound better. Last season the Heels outrebounded opponents by an average of only 1.6 per game. That was by far the lowest margin in the Roy Williams era.

This group shouldn't have that problem, and the newcomer Hicks could be a big reason why.

"They always say rebounding is one skill that translates from level to level," sophomore guard Marcus Paige said. "I've seen it so far. He can go up and get a lot of balls that guys aren't able to get."

McAdoo led the team in rebounding last season at 7.3 per game. His average collapsed almost a full rebound per game the last quarter of the season, when he found himself playing against centers in the Heels' four guard lineup.

Williams expects McAdoo will thrive playing in a lineup with a center again.

"The only time he's had a five-man in there to play the post defense and post up was his freshman year, those few games after John (Henson) was out and he played with Tyler Zeller," Williams said. "Those were pretty doggone good times. It's been a shame that he hasn't had that low-post presence to play with and enable him to do some other things."

He should have that opportunity this season, especially if the Heels find consistency at center between Kennedy Meeks, Joel James and Desmond Hubert.

Williams will have all kinds of versatility at power forward thanks to each player having a different niche. Johnson could be the best defender of the four due to his ability to block shots.

"He has the quick bounce to be able to block some shots, and I think he's shown some of that in practice," Williams said. "And hopefully he'll show it in games too."

Simmons, a former walk-on, proved himself at Florida State with a career-high eight points including the game-winning basket.

"He adds a great deal to our team," Williams said. "Last year he was very significant in a couple of games, and I think he'll be very significant in more games this year."

Power forwards

  • James Michael McAdoo 6-9, 230, Jr., 14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 44.5 FG%
  • Brice Johnson 6-9, 210, So., 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 51.1 FG%
  • Isaiah Hicks 6-8, 220, Fr., n/a
  • Jackson Simmons 6-7, 225, Jr., 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 65.8 FG%


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- It’s been a rough stretch for Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels program. There’s the academic scandal that won’t seem to go away, the recent off-court issues with P.J. Hairston and the mediocre season (by UNC standards) in 2012-13.

The Tar Heels finished 25-11 overall last season and 12-6 in ACC play, which was respectable after losing four first-round picks in the 2012 NBA draft.

Still, Marcus Paige wasn’t ready to be immediately thrust into the role as the program’s starting point guard. James Michael McAdoo saw his stock plummet as he struggled to find a natural position. The Tar Heels didn’t have a big man ready to step in for Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and Williams stubbornly waited too long until inserting Hairston into the starting lineup and playing small ball.

But help is on the way.

Click here for the rest from Jeff Goodman.

Top brother duos in college hoops history

January, 23, 2013
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On Wednesday at Miami (7 ET on ESPN), Seth Curry needs 12 points for the Curry brothers to pass Larry and Eddie Bird for the second-most by a pair of brothers in Division I history.

Barring injury, the Curry brothers should pass the Hansbroughs in February for the most ever.


Below is one man’s opinion on the top 10 pairs of brothers to play college basketball. Just missing the list? Tyler and Cody Zeller.

10. Dominique and Gerald Wilkins
Both Wilkins brothers were more successful NBA players, but that shouldn’t diminish what they accomplished in the college ranks. Dominique is arguably the best player in Georgia history, and its only player to win SEC Player of the Year. Younger brother Gerald helped guide Chattanooga to the NCAA Tournament in his first season, and his 21.0 points per game as a senior is the highest in school history.

9. Tom and Dick Van Arsdale
The most accomplished twins to ever play basketball, it wasn’t just looks that made the two difficult to distinguish. Tom averaged 17.4 points and 10.0 rebounds in his three seasons at Indiana, while Dick averaged 17.2 points and 10.0 rebounds.

8. Chuck and Wesley Person
Only three players in Auburn history have scored 2,000 points. Two of them were brothers. Chuck is the school’s all-time leader with 2,311 points, while Wesley is third at 2,066. While both were elite at Auburn, it’s worth noting that neither won SEC Player of the Year.

7. Mark and Brent Price
At a school famous for producing guards, no one had a better career at Georgia Tech than Mark Price. He was the first freshman to lead the ACC in scoring, and was the Yellow Jackets’ leading scorer in all four seasons. Brent Price split his college career between South Carolina and Oklahoma. He was an All-Big Eight selection as senior, once scoring 56 points in a game.

6. George and Ed Mikan
Named of ESPN’s 25 greatest college basketball players in 2008, George Mikan helped revolutionize the game with his height. A two-time national player of the year, he led DePaul to the NIT title in 1945, averaging 40.0 PPG in that tournament. A year younger, Ed was also a member of that championship team. He also went on to become a member of DePaul’s Hall of Fame and play in the NBA.

5. Ed and Charles O’Bannon
The O’Bannon brothers combined to bring UCLA a national title in 1995. Ed won the Wooden Award that year, as well as the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. Charles was an All-Pac-10 selection in each of the two years after Ed left, making it five consecutive years than an O’Bannon was so honored.

4. Larry and Eddie Bird
No two brothers have scored more points at the same school. Larry Bird requires no introduction. Over three seasons at Indiana State, he averaged 30.3 PPG and 13.3 RPG. In 2008, ESPN’s panel of experts named him the ninth-greatest college player of all-time. But did you know he had a brother? Eddie Bird came to Indiana State a decade later and averaged double figures in all four seasons with the Sycamores. He’s still sixth on their all-time scoring list.

3. Stephen and Seth Curry
Barring injury, the Curry brothers will be the highest-scoring duo of brothers in Division I history. Older brother Stephen led Davidson to the Elite Eight as a sophomore and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer despite playing for only three years. In fact, only five players have scored more total points in a three-year college career. Seth’s career at Duke isn’t nearly as prolific, but the senior captain could help lead the Blue Devils to a national title.

2. Bernard and Albert King
The best player in Tennessee history, Bernard King won SEC Player of the Year in all three seasons in Knoxville. He averaged more than 25 PPG in all three seasons. Overshadowed by his older brother, Albert was certainly no slouch. He averaged in double figures in all four seasons at Maryland and is the fourth-leading scorer in school history. Albert garnered ACC Player of the Year honors as a junior.

1. Tyler and Ben Hansbrough
No pair of brothers has scored more combined points than the 4,485 from the Hansbroughs. Tyler Hansbrough finished his North Carolina career as the ACC’s all-time leading scorer (2,872 points) and eighth all-time with 1,219 rebounds. One of only five players with 2,800 points and 1,200 rebounds, it’s no stretch to call him one of the greatest college basketball players of all time. But younger brother Ben was no slouch. In 2011, he averaged 18.4 PPG at Notre Dame and was named Big East Player of the Year.

Honorable Mention
George and Derrick Gervin, Horace and Harvey Grant, Blake and Taylor Griffin, Brook and Robin Lopez, Jay and Sam Vincent, Gus and Ray Williams, Cody and Tyler Zeller.

Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

December, 6, 2012
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Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops (and other related issues/teams). Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

Kim Porter from Asheville, NC writes: Hi Robbi -- As much as it pains me to say the name Zeller right now, (kidding aside, nice game Cody!) I heard that Tyler got a mean elbow to the face in a game before Thanksgiving and suffered a concussion and a broken cheekbone. How is Tyler doing now?

Pickeral: Hi, Kim. Zeller, now a rookie for the Cleveland Cavaliers, suffered the fractured orbital bone and concussion on Nov. 5 against the L.A. Clippers, and returned on Nov. 17, wearing a protective mask. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Jodie Valade had a good story over the weekend about Zeller’s adjustment to the NBA; you can find that here.

On a funny note, Cleveland’s coach also apparently has assigned his team’s rookies -- including Zeller -- baby dolls and carriages to give them more responsibility. Wrote Mary Schmitt Boyer:
Zeller didn't look too thrilled with the development. Asked if he had any experience with babies -- his "baby" brother is 7-0 Indiana Hoosiers star Cody Zeller -- Zeller grumbled, "No."


Michael Brown from Peoria, Ill., writes: my Heels are going through tough times. this season is a rebuilding one i know, but i am extremely upset with roy williams more than anyone else. why does this man refuse to call a timeout when the opposing team goes on a run??? why let them continue to be hot?? every coach that i have ever seen in basketball on any level have called timeout if the other teams gets hot and goes on a run . i never understood why he would flat out refuse to do that. plus why don't any of you media pundits ever ask him that question??

Pickeral: Well, Michael, actually he has been asked that timeout question many times over the years. Here’s one example from last season when he explained some of his reasoning.

And here’s more on his timeout philosophy from last season.

And here’s where I addressed a similar question last season.

The quick gist is this: During another team’s run, Williams believes in letting his squad fight it out on its own – that his players should be able to take what they learned in practice and apply it in order to fight through the adversity. Sometimes it works (one example was a game against Georgia Tech a few years back when the Tar Heels rallied after being down by 20-plus points); sometimes it doesn’t (Kansas in the NCAA national semifinals in 2008 comes to mind). Love it or hate it, agree with it or not, it’s a philosophy he’s not going to change -- even though it can be extremely frustrating to fans.

But if you’re looking for a positive: because he does it so infrequently, it really gets his players’ attention when he does call a timeout.



@bamcmill tweets: Do you think we give too much credit for wins over highly ranked teams in the early season? Take UK for ex. #3 but now unranked.

Pickeral: In some cases, probably -- especially when those teams don't live up to those high early-season rankings. And we likely give too little credit for wins over some un-ranked teams early in the season, too. It's the nature of the polls; so much is based on potential and opinion. (And in my opinion, there's still a lot of potential for Kentucky to be quite good.)



Rod Murray from Halifax, NS, writes: With Joel James and Kennedy Meeks being on the Tar Heels at the same time, is Roy thinking about going to a more traditional halfcourt offense rather than trying to score 90 by running??

Pickeral: Rod, we're barely into 2012-13! Meeks -- a big man who recently signed with the Tar Heels -- won’t arrive in Chapel Hill as a freshman until next season, so you really are thinking ahead.

But to answer your question: No, I doubt Williams is going to stop running; he always wants his teams to go faster-faster-faster. Even though James [a freshman this season] and Meeks are bigger-bodied big guys, they’ll have to keep up the pace. After talking to both of them, they both knew the speedy expectations when they signed with the Tar Heels.

Summer Shootaround: ACC

July, 16, 2012
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Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the ACC, click here.

[+] EnlargeNorth Carolina State Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie
Greg Bartram/US PresswireExpectations are high for C.J. Leslie and the rest of the NC State Wolfpack heading into the season.
1. Expectations at NC State: The last time the ACC media picked the Wolfpack to finish first in the league standings was 1988-89. But after a run to the Sweet 16 last March, forward C.J. Leslie's decision to return for another season, the arrival of a heralded recruiting class and so many departures from the other top conference teams, expect Mark Gottfried's club to top the ballots come fall. Point guard Lorenzo Brown needed knee surgery late last month, but is expected to practice before NCSU leaves for an August trip to Spain.

2. Departures at North Carolina: Losing so many stars to the NBA in one swipe (this time, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall) is nothing new in Chapel Hill. The question is, how will the Tar Heels respond? In 2005-06, after losing seven of its top eight players, a young UNC team exceeded preseason expectations by making it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. But in 2009-10, after losing four of five starters, the Tar Heels didn't make it to the NCAA tournament at all. Returners such as James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland still make UNC a top-15 favorite this time around.

3. Decisions at Duke: The Blue Devils' jaw-dropping defeat to 15th-seeded Lehigh in the NCAA tournament was followed by a couple of other spring surprises: the announcement that guard Andre Dawkins will redshirt his senior season, and forward Mason Plumlee will return for another year. The latter is particularly key for Duke, which will boast sizeable frontcourt options in Mason and Marshall Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Alex Murphy and late signee Amile Jefferson. But without Dawkins, how Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon perform on the perimeter could determine how far the Blue Devils go.

4. Personnel changes at Virginia Tech: Seth Greenberg is gone. But so are rising sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith and recruit Montrezl Harrell, who opted for new schools after Greenburg was fired. Former Greenberg assistant James Johnson -- who left Blacksburg, Va., for the same position at Clemson, only to return weeks later after he was hired to replace Greenberg in the head-coaching job -- has some talent to build around. But not all he could have hoped for.

5. Don't forget about Florida State: After losing six players in their rotation (including fan favorite forward Bernard James, who went No. 33 overall in the NBA draft), it would be easy to overlook the chances of the Seminoles, who won their first ACC tournament last season. But don't. The Noles return four of their top five scorers, including guards Michael Snaer and Ian Miller, who both buried game-winners last season. Plus, coach Leonard Hamilton has proven that defense wins.
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford wrote last week that the 2013 NBA draft list might be the weakest in more than a decade Insider (Insider Access required), thanks to a lack of top returning underclassmen and “a marginal freshman class.”

North Carolina won’t have four players go in the top 17, a la Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Tyler Zeller last week. But one Tar Heel is already projected as a top-5 pick, and a couple of others dot his top 100.

Of course, this is an early list, and plenty of players will drop and fall over the next 11 months. But here’s where the Tar Heels currently rank on Ford’s 2013 top 100:
4. James Michael McAdoo, sophomore forward

25. P.J. Hairston, sophomore guard

41. Reggie Bullock, junior guard

UNC redshirt junior Leslie McDonald, who missed last season because of a torn ACL, currently ranks 148 on Ford’s list. And it’s interesting to note that McAdoo is currently the only ACC player projected in the top 20. NC State’s C.J. Leslie comes in at No. 21, followed by Duke’s Mason Plumlee at No. 24. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel currently holds the top spot.

Thoughts?

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As he looked around the locker room after North Carolina’s loss to Kansas in the NCAA Regional finals last March, forward Desmond Hubert couldn’t help but grow a little anxious about all the talent the Tar Heels would lose to the NBA.

But after playing additional offseason pickup games with his teammates, putting on a few more pounds, and gaining confidence in his still-developing hook shot, “I’m a lot more excited now than nervous.”

Which, the Tar Heels hope, is a good sign. Hubert, who averaged 4.9 minutes in 25 games as a freshman, will likely need to play a much bigger role on UNC’s front line next season, considering the losses of ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller and ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson to the NBA draft. (Both are expected to be first-round picks next week, along with fellow starters Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall.)

[+] EnlargeDesmond Hubert
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDesmond Hubert says he learned plenty during a freshman year of watching Carolina's stars at work.
Sophomore James Michael McAdoo, who came on strong late in the season, will start at one forward slot. Hubert, incoming freshmen Joel James and Brice Johnson, and also-sparingly used sophomore Jackson Simmons will be competing for the other starting spot -- as well as reserve minutes at both positions.

“I think some people are going to be surprised,’’ said Hubert, whose thin 6-foot-9 frame, expansive 7-3 wingspan, and Gumby-like defensive-mindedness have drawn plenty of comparisons to Henson.

“I know we’re going to be young, but we have a lot of talent. The freshmen coming in are really good. As soon as we start learning from each other, learning how to play together, to get rid of those early jitters and stuff like that, I think we’re going to be really good."

Hubert said he learned plenty of lessons from Zeller and Henson last season: timing, preparation, work ethic. But having to sit and watch wasn’t always easy, especially after averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds as a senior at New Egypt (N.J.) High.

“I remember playing a couple good minutes in one game [last season] … then not playing for two or three games in a row,’’ he said. “It was kind of hard. I guess that kind of hurt my confidence a little bit. But I had some great guys ahead of me, so at the end of the day … I couldn’t be mad or anything like that, because the guys ahead of me were just terrific guys.”

Plus, he said, he got to learn from those guys each day -- watching how Zeller sprinted down the court; emulating how Henson used his timing and reach to block and out-rebound bigger, broader opponents.

“When I first started practicing against them, it was really a one-sided match,’’ Hubert said. “And as the season started to go on, I feel like sometimes -- it didn’t happen many times -- but I could say there were a few times when I won out over Z or John. It didn’t happen very often, but it happened sometimes.”

Enough to take pride in, and build upon.

With Zeller and Henson gone, Hubert smiles and shakes his head at the fact that he’s now one of the “veterans” of the front line. But he’s working hard to set a good example.

By hitting the weight room often and eating up to six meals a day, he now weighs in at 220 pounds -- up from 193 when he first arrived in Chapel Hill last summer. A defensive specialist (he recorded 17 points and 37 rebounds, total, last season), he’s also been developing a go-to move: a right- and left-handed hook shot. Former Tar Heel forwards Rasheed Wallace, Marvin Williams and Deon Thompson have also taken him under their collective wing, offering tips and tricks and even more competition.

Now, Hubert is anxious about next season in a good way.

“When I first got here, I had no idea what I was in for, I had no idea what to expect at all,’’ he said. “… Now I feel like I’m in a position where I have to teach the freshmen that are coming in some of the things that John and Z taught me. I’ve got to be a major part of the team this year. It’s kind of different, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept. I’m kind of excited for it.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
ESPN Insider Jay Bilas on Monday ranked his 30 best players in the NBA draft, Insider and four North Carolina players made his top 18.

Here's how Bilas rated them:
5. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina Tar Heels: In high school, I thought Barnes was super athletic and always made the right play. In college, I questioned his athleticism and his basketball IQ. Well, I am doubling down on Barnes because I think he will be a better pro than a college player. He is an outstanding jump shooter, really good at midrange and incredibly athletic with potential at both ends. Barnes is a thinker who is process-oriented, but with more time to work on his game, I like him better as a pro. And he was a heck of a college player, notwithstanding the super high expectations.

12. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: Zeller has a skill that sets him apart from any big man in this draft, and the vast majority of big men in the NBA: He can really run the floor. Zeller's ability to change ends puts tremendous pressure on opposing big men. Zeller is a good post defender who breaks contact to get deflections and rebounds at a really high rate. He needs to better hold position down low, but he is strong and has a good frame. He has a nice touch, hits a trail jumper and knocks down his free throws.

14. John Henson, North Carolina: Henson was projected as a small forward coming out of high school, but it seems that power forward is his best spot. He has freaky length and can block shots and rebound, and his offensive game has improved to the point of being able to hit a face-up shot to 17 feet or so. He is unorthodox and does not carry a lot of bulk, but his length, shot-blocking ability and rebounding make him a very good prospect.

18. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina: Marshall is a left-hander with extraordinary vision, passing ability and leadership. He has good size but lacks foot speed and the ability to get by people off the dribble. Marshall is not a great shooter or scorer but is excellent in transition, and his teammates run because he will find them. He averaged almost 10 assists per game but did not score efficiently. He can hit a wide-open standstill jumper but is not a driver or penetrator. His defense is lacking, but he is able to use his size and is smart about playing off of quicker guards and using angles to cover up speed and quickness disadvantages. Marshall has decent straight-line speed but not quickness.

Bilas had also previously ranked Barnes as one of his top five players in this draft with star potential. Insider

Thoughts?

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
Some Tar Heels hoops-related stories, notes and quotes from over the weekend:

TWO AWARDED SCHOLARSHIPS: North Carolina sophomores Luke Davis and Jackson Simmons will be on scholarship next season, according to InsideCarolina. Greg Barnes writes:
The scholarships for Davis and Simmons have been granted on a year-to-year basis and may not be available in future years, according to the school official.

The decision to grant the point guard and forward scholarships isn’t surprising, considering the early departures of John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall to the NBA had left the Tar Heels with only 10 scholarships players for next season -- three under the NCAA limit. Davis and Simmons put them at 12.

As per NCAA transfer rules, the 6-foot Davis sat out last season after leaving Gardner-Webb for UNC. The Raleigh, N.C., native averaged 7.2 points and 4.2 assists his freshman season and is expected to add some depth to the point guard position behind freshman Marcus Paige and senior Dexter Strickland.

The 6-7 Simmons appeared in 23 games for the Tar Heels last season and recorded 15 points and 17 rebounds, total. The Webster, N.C., resident was also on scholarship in 2011-12.

ZELLER UNDERRATED? UNC 7-footer Tyler Zeller is earning a lot of high praise from scouts, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, but still isn’t expected to be drafted until the 12-15 range. Why, Amico asks?
“Well, for one, this is a pretty deep draft with a lot of players who have high expectations,” said a Western Conference GM. “Also, I don’t think anyone really expects (Zeller) to change the course of your franchise. Most expect him to be a unique and talented center that could play an important role, though.”

Especially if he ends up in the right place.
“It’s all going to be about the right fit for him,” the GM said. “If he lands on a team that gives him an opportunity, I expect him to make some contributions. In his case, they’ll probably go unnoticed, but they’ll definitely be there.”

Also, NBA.com followed Zeller around on graduation day. He reflected on his career and moving on to the NBA. Here’s the video.

MARSHALL READY FOR COMBINE: After training at the IMG facility in Bradenton, Fla., for the past month, Marshall was scheduled to return home to Virginia on Sunday before leaving for the NBA draft combine in Chicago on Wednesday, David Fawcett of InsideNova.com reported over the weekend.

Wrote Fawcett:
Although Marshall has yet to face any full contact, Dennis Marshall said his son’s wrist is 100 percent as is his elbow. Marshall fractured his elbow and broke his wrist in North Carolina’s second-round win March 18 over Creighton in the NCAA Tournament.

Kendall Marshall will work out for five or six teams, his dad added, and will find out in about two weeks whether he has been invited to the draft. Marshall and Zeller, as well as Henson and Barnes, are all projected as top-20 picks.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
The New Orleans Hornets were the big winners in the NBA draft lottery on Wednesday night, landing the top overall pick (which they will almost certainly use on Kentucky's Anthony Davis).

What does the new draft order mean for the quartet of North Carolina players expected to go in the first round? ESPN.com NBA draft analyst Chad Ford weighed in with a new mock draft, version 5.0 . Here's where he ranked the Tar Heels:
4. Harrison Barnes, Cleveland Cavaliers

Analysis: Thomas Robinson may be the best player left on the board, but he's not a great fit with Tristan Thompson. If both MKG and Beal are off the board, the choice will be between Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond. Both fit needs and Drummond has crazy upside, but the Cavs loved Barnes at the No. 4 pick last year before he decided to go back to school. I think they'll roll the dice on him again this year.

9. John Henson, Detroit Pistons

Analysis: Greg Monroe has been a revelation in the middle for the Pistons, but they really need to pair him alongside an athletic shot-blocker. Although John Henson is painfully thin, he rebounds, blocks shots and defends multiple positions. It wouldn't be a perfect solution in Detroit, but the Pistons don't have a lot of other options here.

14. Tyler Zeller, Houston Rockets

Analysis: The Rockets' biggest need is in the middle and Zeller should be a solid option. Scouts don't think Zeller is going to be an All-Star someday, but he's big, he runs the floor very well and he has a great touch around the basket. Zeller should ultimately land somewhere between Picks 8 and 14.

17. Kendall Marshall, Dallas Mavericks

Analysis: With Jason Kidd 39 and a free agent and Rodrigue Beaubois more of a combo guard, Marshall would bring much of what Kidd brings to the table -- incredible court vision and size -- right away. He's not a great athlete or a great shooter, but he could keep Dirk and company happy.
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Nonconference scheduling is becoming more of a puzzle, what with the increase in league games and some foes pushing for neutral sites.

But one piece North Carolina coach Roy Williams is determined not to give up: hometown games for the Tar Heel basketball players who want them.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesRoy Williams says he still tries to make hometown games a priority when scheduling nonconference matchups.
“It’s something we look forward to doing,’’ Williams said earlier this week. “Different kids, it means more to. Sean May was really looking forward to going back to Indiana … but he was very disappointed in the reception he got there. And then you’ve got Tyler Hansbrough, we took him up to St. Louis, and he was really excited about it. And the reception he got was just off the charts.

“... People they grew up with, people in their families, friends, you can’t always get tickets for everybody that you want, not even for home games. So I think playing it on the road and taking it into their area, there are people that are close to them from when they were younger that have a much better chance of getting to the game. It’s always been important to me.”

The UNC tradition of taking players back home began with coach Dean Smith, and Williams, an assistant on Smith's staff, continued it when he became head coach at Kansas.

Another complication in scheduling such games, however, has been the rise in players leaving early for the pros.

“I remember [when I was at Kansas] scheduling and playing in Oakland against Oregon," Williams said. "Looking around, that game was for Drew Gooden to take him back home, and all of a sudden, you couldn’t find Gooden, because he was already in the NBA. So that’s a little bit of the problem, too.”

To try to get around that, Williams and UNC senior associate athletic director Larry Gallo have tried to schedule more “go home” games earlier in Tar Heels’ careers. (The St. Louis trip took place during Hansbrough’s sophomore season in 2006-07, for example; and the Tar Heels played at Evansville when Tyler Zeller was a junior in 2010-11.)

Players who grew up near ACC schools don’t have special games scheduled because they’re competing near home during conference play anyway. (Forward John Henson fit into this category, Williams said, since he moved to Tampa in high school, and the Tar Heels played at two Florida schools, Miami and Florida State, in league competition.)

And for some players, like Iowa native Harrison Barnes, a road trip back home isn’t a priority. So hometown games aren’t scheduled.

“There was no one that Harrison -- because we talked about it a few times -- there was no one that jumped out at him that he wanted to play,’’ Williams said of Barnes, who left after his sophomore season and is expected to be one of four UNC first-round draft picks in June.

Added Gallo: “Coach Williams always talks to the individual player, asks what he wants, because he doesn’t want to put undue pressure on him. He makes sure it's something the player wants to do.”

Currently, there are no hometown games scheduled for next season. Williams said he has talked to redshirt junior Leslie McDonald about taking him back home to Memphis, and Williams has had some discussions with the Tigers, “but nothing is set in concrete.”

Other possible future destinations, judging by the incoming freshman class, include Iowa (Marcus Paige) and Wisconsin (J.P. Tokoto). But keep in mind: balancing the difficulty of the schedule also factors into which teams UNC might try to play in those areas, and when.

“It is harder with more conference games and more national rivalries,’’ Williams said. “... So you have less freedom than you’ve ever had on your schedule, and less flexibility than you’ve ever had. So it is getting harder, but I still do want to do it, there’s no question.

"During the course of the recruiting process, we talk to our youngsters and see if that’s something they would be interested in. ... And we will continue to do that. It’s something I like to do.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

UNC's John Henson chooses agent

April, 17, 2012
4/17/12
2:05
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North Carolina forward John Henson, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year who is leaving school early for the NBA draft, will be represented by Jim Tanner of Washington, D.C.-based Williams & Connolly LLP, the firm announced Tuesday.

Tanner also represents former UNC forwards Marvin Williams and Brandan Wright, among others.

"When looking for representation, I wanted to find a group that fit with my goals and personality," Henson, a junior, said in a prepared statement. "Jim and the team at W&C had a very specific and unique plan for me, and that was important. Overall, I just felt comfortable with them, and that they truly cared about my career."

This month, sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall chose Octagon to represent him in the draft, while senior forward Tyler Zeller hired Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management.

Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes, meanwhile, will be represented by agent Jeff Wechsler, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

All four starters -- who led the Tar Heels to the Midwest Regional Final in the NCAA tournament -- are projected as first-round draft picks.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
In his latest NBA mock draft (version 3.0), ESPN Insider Chad Ford on Wednesday ranked North Carolina's quartet of players all in his top 15. For the full list, click here . But here's where he currently has the Tar Heels:
Thoughts, anyone?

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

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