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Basketball Pre-season Preview: Unc

Thursday, September 11, 2008 11:41am
By: Accsports Staff

November 11, 2002

Track Record

Year ACC Overall Postseason
1993 14-2 (1) 34-4 NCAA Champions
1994 11-5 (2x) 28-7 NCAA 2nd Round
1995 12-4 (1) 28-6 NCAA Final Four
1996 10-6 (3) 21-11 NCAA 2nd Round
1997 11-5 (2x) 28-7 NCAA Final Four
1998 13-3 (2x) 34-4 NCAA Final Four
1999 10-6 (3) 24-10 NCAA 1st Round
2000 9-7 (3) 22-14 NCAA Final Four
2001 13-3 (1) 26-7 NCAA 2nd Round
2002 4-12 (7) 8-20 None

x — won ACC title

2002-03 Roster

Name Ht./Wt. Pos. Class
Jonathan Holmes 6-0/189 PG Sr.
Will Johnson* 6-8/218 BF Sr.
Jackie Manuel* 6-5/189 WG So.
Melvin Scott* 6-1/179 WG So.
Jawad Williams 6-8/204 BF So.
Raymond Felton 6-0/194 PG Fr.
Damion Grant 6-11/262 C Fr.
Sean May 6-8/272 C Fr.
Rashad McCants 6-4/210 WF Fr.
David Noel 6-6/216 WF Fr.
Byron Sanders 6-9/225 BF Fr.
  • — returning starter

Building Blocks
Foundation? The Tar Heels have one nice chunk of granite (forward Jawad Williams), one solid stone (guard Melvin Scott) and one player better known for his masonry (swingman Jackie Manuel). Williams could have a break-out season, an All-ACC campaign, based on his 51.5 percent shooting last season and the way he became more comfortable, and assertive, as last season progressed. Scott, whose 21 starts in 2001-02 came primarily at point guard, will move to shooting guard (his natural position) to make room for freshman Raymond Felton.

Other Key Returnees
Manuel started 16 games last season, but with the exception of occasionally solid defense, he wasn't an overwhelming contributor. He averaged 5.5 points on 32.9 percent shooting from the floor, though he's usually good for a handful of steals, rebounds and assists. Senior walk-on Will Johnson also started 16 games, with similar results. He averaged just 3.9 points per game, though he did convert 42.9 percent of his three-pointers.

Some Introductions
The freshmen are special — maybe even more special than most anticipated. That's because David Noel, the Tar Heels' would-be scholarship football player who turned down that grant to walk on to the basketball team, is better than anybody outside the program knew. The surprise star of the Blue-White game, he will help on the wing as well as give the team another post-up presence in certain situations. The best of the rest you already know. Felton, the starter at point guard, was the overwhelming preseason media favorite to win ACC rookie of the year. McCants likely will start alongside him and could be a double-figure scorer as well as a deceptively good defender and rebounder for his size. Big man Sean May has struggled with problems in both knees, but his biggest concern may be conditioning. May is built like former Maryland star Lonny Baxter — maybe even thicker — but has better shooting range. Fellow big men Damion Grant and Byron Sanders will play some out of necessity, thanks to a lack of depth in the middle. As for how good they are … let's just say the Heels weren't trying desperately to sign a center this fall for no reason.

ALSO Worth Noting
McCants scored 36 points in the Blue-White game, one of the top performances in UNC history. … The ACC media picked the Heels (348 points) to finish seventh, ahead of only Clemson and Florida State but much closer to No. 6 Wake Forest (380) than No. 8 Clemson (168). … Felton was a second-team All-ACC pick, while Williams received a handful of votes. … McCants received four votes for rookie of the year, tied with Wake Forest's Eric Williams and Duke's Shavlik Randolph for third. May didn't get a vote. … As usual, the cover of the UNC media guide has pictures of the seniors: Johnson (career scoring average: 2.0) and Jonathan Holmes (0.8). … Media skeptics think the player most likely to transfer after this season is Manuel, who has been recruited over for the second year in a row. Three UNC players transferred after last season.