6-8, 210 pounds
UNC head coach Roy Williams has always been savvy when it comes to discussing his players in the media. He could praise Tyler Hansbrough night and day without any concern it would get to Psycho-T’s head, while he seemingly avoided giving Danny Green too much credit to prevent some sort of shooter’s complex from developing.
So it spoke volumes on Wednesday at the ACC Operation Basketball in Charlotte when Williams didn’t hesitate for one second after being asked about Barnes being tabbed as the conference’s Preseason Rookie of the Year.
“I think he’ll handle [those expectations] exceptionally well – I really do,” Williams said. “He’s just that kind of individual. It doesn’t bother him. He wants the expectations. He takes a great deal of pride in people thinking that he’s going to be pretty good and then that drives him to work hard enough to do that.”
The eighth-year UNC head coach touched on the “tremendous amount of respect” that Barnes has already earned from his elder teammates, and also provided a short but effective synopsis of the Ames, Iowa native’s game.
“He has an ability to score,” Williams said. “He can take the ball to the basket, he can shoot from the outside [and] he can get an offensive rebound and turn all of those into baskets. I think he’s going to be a fantastic defender for us. He’s very gifted, but his strongest suit right now is his discipline, his focus, his desire. He’s willing to make sacrifices.”
Barnes showcased his talent during a pair of exhibition games in the Bahamas in August, scoring 49 points over two games, but he also displayed a unique ability to let the game come to him. Williams referenced a former player known for getting his shot off in rapid-fire succession as a contrast to Barnes’s style.
“One time I counted and Danny Green dribbled the ball 17 times and didn’t even get a shot off,” Williams said. “So I don’t think Harrison will be like that, but he’ll be able to get some shots up and do some things without dominating the basketball. And then he instinctively does move it when someone else is just wide open.”
6-7, 190 pounds
The first thing that will grab your attention with Bullock is his long limbs. Built like a NBA three-man, the Kinston, N.C. native has a deadly touch from long range – as evidenced by his 30-point, 13-of-20 shooting display against N.C. State players in the N.C. Pro-Am this summer.
But this tall two-guard has surprised his teammates through the first four days of practice with a knack for defensive intensity.
“He can shoot the ball,” junior forward Tyler Zeller said. “He can guard people – he could be one of our best defenders. He’s got a lot to learn coming in as far as the different ways we play, as well as how quick the game is, but he can move his feet very well and he can get in people. I’ve seen him do it very well in pick-up a few times, so he can be a very good player.”
6-9, 240 pounds
“He’s a man.”
That’s about all you need to know about this Alabama transfer, courtesy of Williams. The UNC head coach sang Knox’s praises on Wednesday, using the word “ecstatic” twice in describing how the coaching staff feels about the last-minute addition’s work through the first four days of practice.
“He can rebound the ball [and] he’s a big physical presence,” Williams said. “He sets screens and everybody knows which screens he set because his guy is usually laying on the ground… He has set some screens that are set the way screens are supposed to be set. He’s buried some people.”
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that Knox is just a security blanket in a thin frontcourt.
“He’s a lot more than a big body with five fouls,” Zeller said. “He’s a very good player that’s going to be able to play a lot of minutes… He’s got a lot of post moves. He’s got a little bit of a jump shot – that surprised me at first but he can shoot the ball. He can do a lot of things and I think he’s going to be very effective.”
6-3, 186 pounds
While Marshall may only be a freshman, he’s been playing pickup with the Tar Heels for longer than most of the players on UNC’s roster. The Dumfries, Va. native has been committed to North Carolina since Sept. ’07, and always made a consistent effort to drive down with family on home football game weekends to play ball with his future teammates.
That familiarity has already helped the freshman blend in and begin his UNC career on a positive note.
“Kendall’s doing a great job of trying to run the point guard [spot] and competing with Larry [Drew] to push him,” Zeller said. “… He’s got a great chance to be able to come in and he’s going to play a lot of minutes either way."
If there’s a knock on Marshall, it’s his foot speed – a critique that has followed him around for far too many years to count.
“We always tease him that he’s really slow and we don’t understand how he’s a point guard, but he does a lot of things – he can pass the ball [and] pitch ahead on a dime,” Zeller said. “He’s very shifty with the way he does things. He’s a very difficult guy to guard.”
Williams told Inside Carolina in the Bahamas that what Marshall needed to work on the most was “staying in front of the basketball” on the defensive end of the floor. Marshall is a magician with the basketball in his hands, so the ability to meet his coach’s demands on the other end of the floor will go a long way in determining how big of a factor he plays this season.