Tar Heel Bred Tar Heel Dead

Despite the terrible name – Pro Am sounds like a Chevy car from the 1970s — the annual summer tournament was something to watch. And as usual, lots of current and former Heels participated — and in some cases dominated.
A highlight reel is below. Some thoughts:
- John Henson looks noticeably bigger. Are we imagining things, or does he just look huskier? His arms no longer look like matchsticks. He’s been working out a ton this summer and presumably drinking 16 pounds of whey protein a day, and he’s up to 220 pounds now. That’s almost 50 pounds more than when he arrived at UNC two years ago. Nuts.
- Harrison Barnes looks just as confident as he was at the end of the season. Maybe more.
- We’re still waiting for Leslie McDonald to become the 12 ppg player we know he can be. He’s got the talent.
- Rasheed Wallace remains an enigma. Everything you see or hear about him in the pros screams that he’s got a terrible attitude, but when it comes to UNC, few former players seem as devoted. He’s often back in Chapel Hill during summers, scrimmaging with the current players and providing guidance. What do you make of that? Is he really just a big, caring teddy bear at heart?
- P.J. Hairston appears to be able to shoot. Though he’s got a wonky form, kind of like Dexter Strickland. Whatever. As long as it goes in.
- Granted, the effort level in these games appears to be on about the same level as the NBA All-Star game, but Dexter’s knees appear fine.

Current players versus Alum, 2011 style:

Tomorrow is the NBA draft, the annual event where the commissioner pretends he knows how to pronounce the names of a lot of dudes from Lithuania.

It should be an interesting one. Kyrie Irving should go first to the Cavs, but beyond that, it’s pretty wide open. One name you won’t see, of course, is Harrison Barnes. Despite the rumored promise that Cleveland made to take him at #4 and team him up with Irving, Barnes decided (sensibly) to stay in school and try and win a national championship.

Personally, we always thought he’d stay, but in his summer press conference, Roy Williams said he actually had no idea what his star was going to do. He was fairly sure Henson and Zeller were coming back, but Barnes kept him in suspense until the end. And a technical snafu didn’t help matters.

We had three or four pretty significant meetings over a three-week period, the last one was on a Friday. He said he thought he would come to a conclusion by the weekend, so I said, ‘Well, call me on Sunday night.’ So he did, and I’m so great with technology that the phone went out right in the middle of the conversation, right when he was getting ready to tell me what he did. It was not a good moment, that’s all I can tell you.

It was crazy, because I don’t think he would mind me saying this. We sort of chatted for a moment, and I parked the car in the driveway because Wanda and I were just coming back from eating and he called right before we pulled in the driveway. So we chatted and I said, ‘All right big fella, what are you thinking?’ He said, ‘Well coach I loved playing for you. You’re a great coach and I loved my teammates. I loved being a student at the University of North Carolina and…’”

[Williams then imitates a cell phone losing service]

I said, ‘Harrison … Harrison … Harrison’ – he said, ‘Coach?’ I said, ‘Big fella, I’m sorry but I’ve got to ask you to repeat that last part.’ Then we were trying to get him up with Steve (Kirschner, UNC’s Sports Information Director) so we could do the release. We were trying to find Steve at the Durham Bulls baseball game – so it was quite a comical afternoon. And he did the statement completely on his own. It was one of the neatest statements that I’ve ever seen. He did it completely by himself.

Another Heel has a ring

June 13, 2011

Congratulations to Brendan Haywood, whose Mavericks rolled over LeBron and the Heat to take the NBA title. Don Nelson called Brendan “the unsung hero” of the Mav’s playoff run, but Haywood missed the last few games with a hip injury. Still, he gets a ring nonetheless, joining a long list of Heels who have won it all in the NBA.

This bodes very well for next season. Over on scout.com, Leslie McDonald talks about what he’s up to this summer, and he mentions that the rest of the team declined to head home and is instead hanging around Chapel Hill. Not in a creepy townie way. In a good way. They’re there, working out, playing against former Heels and making the occasional side trip, like Harrison Barnes’ stint at the Chris Paul point guard camp. McDonald says the extra time spent together is improving the team’s already great chemistry.

“Because everybody is here,” McDonald replied. “Nobody took the chance to go back home. We have the option to go back home or stay here, but everybody’s here.

“Everybody asked around about who was going home (for the second semester) and everybody said ‘I’m staying here.’

Before you think that’s a swipe directed at someone else, realize that McDonald was not in Chapel Hill for the second summer session a year ago.

He’s referring to the team’s chemistry, a group that he feels so close to that there’s nowhere else he’d rather be — “We’re brothers … I can’t explain it because I’ve never experienced anything like this” — but he’s also speaking collectively to the team’s offseason focus, which it hopes will pay dividends this winter, where the loftiest of expectations await.

According to IMDB, former UNC ball player Neil Fingleton has a bit part as “Russian General’s Bodyguard” in the new X-Men movie. Have you seen it? Did you spot Neil? Here’s hoping he gets more screen time than he got playing time.  The 7’7″ Fingleton is listed in the Guiness Book as the tallest man from England.

The three former Heels, all sudden transfers to UCLA, opened up to the LA Times about the reasons they bolted Carolina under the cover of darkness. Drew suggested a lot of factors were an issue,  just not playing time.

“I was there for 21/2 years and I didn’t play my whole freshman year, so it’s not if I’m playing or not playing,” Drew said. “It was just a buildup of things since I first got there.”

He also slagged off Carolina fans and accused them of being too harsh.

“When you’re winning, everything’s good. When you’re losing, it’s opposite,” Drew said. “Going to a school like that, I was aware of the potential for how things could be. I wasn’t aware to the extent.”

His father, Larry Sr., the coach of the Atlanta Hawks, said he didn’t like the way Roy Williams handled the change in the starting line-up.

“Nothing was said to Larry, nothing was said to me,” Drew Sr. said. “That was a little hard to swallow.”

It’s possible nothing was said to him, but we’re not sure we believe that nothing was said to his son. There were all kinds of rumors floating around that Williams was going to make three changes in the starting line-up following that embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech. If we knew, I can guarantee you that Larry knew.

As for the Wear twins, they said they left because it wasn’t a lot of fun being in Chapel Hill. They like the west coast better, and they said there wasn’t much joy in the locker room.

“The energy just wasn’t there as in the years prior, it seemed like,” said Travis Wear, a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 3.5 points in 10.1 minutes a game. “It just wasn’t that fun of a year.”


Ever wonder who’s Carolina’s best defender or why Harrison Barnes got so much better in the second half of the season? Stats guru Adrian Atkinson drops by to dish on what the numbers say from last season. Plus, he’s got a surprise in store for who was the team’s +/- loser. And Dook sucks this week because its bench is getting mighty crowded with wash-outs.

Pick up Adrian’s annual publication Tar Heel Tip-Off this fall at Harris Teeter, Barnes & Noble or online at maplestreetpress.com

Well, this is just plain madness.

NBAdraft.net has put together its mock draft for 2012, and it has Harrison Barnes and James McAdoo going second and third. McAdoo, who has yet to play a minute in college, is projected to go higher than Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger or Duke’s incoming phenom Austin Rivers.

Can this be for real? We know people are high on  McAdoo, but are they this high? If he’s even half this good, Carolina should have no problem winning the national title next season.

As for Harrison Barnes, we’re not even certain he’ll go pro after this year. His returning to school after last season seems to suggest that he’s about more than making quick money in the NBA. He’s in this for the long term and, as he’s always said, he values leaving a lasting legacy at Carolina. And that may mean a national title.

The coach addressed his future while playing this week at a charity golf tournament. Sounds like he could be around for another ten years at least — or long enough to win two more titles, at the rate he’s going.

“As long as my health holds, I’d like to go another six to 10 years at least, but I am enjoying the dickens out of it,” he said.

“I am 60 years old now. Coach (Dean) Smith stopped at 66. He told me he didn’t want me to stop that early, so that’s the reason I picked the number six. I picked 10 … no reason, round numbers. I don’t want to be out there at 71 or 72 if I don’t have my health.”

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