** Two key pieces in North Carolina’s backcourt next season are recovering from ACL injuries. Leslie McDonald sat out the 2011-12 season after tearing his right ACL during a summer league pickup game in July.
“Leslie could have played this year if it had been his senior year and he didn’t have any more eligibility,” Williams said. “He probably would have played the last 10 or 12 games and would have been able to do that. So he’s doing fine. He practiced with us down the stretch. We let him have a day off every four or five days just to make sure that we weren’t doing too much.”
Dexter Strickland tore his right ACL in the second half against Virginia Tech on Jan. 19.
“Dexter’s rehab is right on schedule,” Williams said. “I think that when school starts in the fall, he’ll be running and doing some things. And I really feel that when we start our conditioning program, which is usually around Sept. 15, it might be a little difficult for Dexter to do the whole thing, but I think by the time practice starts he should be able to go, too.”
** Williams spent several minutes discussing the 2011-12 season and the decisions of Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes and John Henson to enter the NBA Draft.
“We’ll have four guys drafted in the first round and every one of them deserves to be,” Williams said.
He brushed aside talk from fans about the players needing to return to school in order to get a great college experience.
“I’m not buying that and neither are you,” Williams told the crowd. “Come on, Marvin Williams played one year, was the second pick in the draft, signed his name once and made 13 million dollars. Don’t give me all of that crap about how they should have stayed.
“Every dadgum one of you went to college to get a better job and make more money. That’s what those kids are able to do.”
** Williams had this to say regarding next year’s team: “James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock have got to step forward and be big-time scorers for us. The other guys, Leslie and Dexter, have got to get healthy. We’ve got to get a couple of the freshmen big guys to come in and be important for us. We’ve got to get Marcus Paige healthy as an incoming freshman point guard, who is a very gifted kid. We’ve got to have him come in and be able to step up and play.”
** When asked if he was working on a big man for next season, Williams replied, “No, but if you’ve got any ideas…”
“We made some inquiries into one kid at the end of the season, but it didn’t work out. It was something we were going to be very interested in, there’s no question, but the youngster decided to go somewhere else.”
Williams didn’t give the player’s name, but he was referencing UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi, who ultimately decided to transfer to Missouri.
“We’re always keeping our options open, but there’s really not anybody else out there right now for next year’s club,” Williams said.
** Henson’s jump to the NBA puts the onus on freshmen forwards Brice Johnson and Joel James to elevate their games and adapt quickly at the college level.
“[Johnson’s] 6-9, very athletic, a quick jumper and shot blocker,” Williams said. “He’s got a chance to be a big-time player. He’s got to learn to work harder and push himself a lot more and understand how big and strong everybody is that he’s going to face, but he’s got a chance to be really something special.”
The soon-to-be 10th-year UNC head coach noted that James “could be one of the great stories in college basketball.”
Williams shared his first encounter with James, dating back to Dec. 22, 2010. Williams was in Fort Myers, Fla. at the City of Palms Classic to watch McAdoo in an 8 a.m. game, but was tipped off to another big man playing in an 11 a.m. game later that morning.
With UNC’s head coach sitting front row underneath the basket, the 6-foot-10, 310-pound James went up to block a shot and was called for a foul despite there being about a foot in between him and the offensive player.
James immediately turned to Williams and said, “Coach, I swear to God I didn’t touch him!”
Williams started laughing and said, “I agree with you, big fella. Mr. Ref, you missed one on my big boy there. You missed that one bad.”
James currently checks in at 6-10 and 260 pounds.
** Another big man that may be forced to play significant minutes is rising sophomore Desmond Hubert.
“Desmond’s got to work on his game on the offensive end, there’s no question,” Williams said. “And it’s strange because with freshmen, you never know how they’re going to go. The first half of the season Desmond’s getting better and better and then he hit a wall and then he lost his confidence in practice and wasn’t nearly as effective in practice…
“But Desmond has the ability to rebound, run and block shots. He’s going to be important to us.”
** Williams did not have an update on his vacant assistant coach position, only saying that he hoped to have it wrapped up “pretty soon.”
** Williams has four individual meetings with players scheduled on Wednesday to discuss expectations over the summer.
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