The 10th-year UNC head coach briefly looked back on the highs and lows on the 2012-13 season before turning his attention to next year’s squad.
“Unless things go wacko again, we’ll go back to two big guys and then play three perimeter players,” Williams said. “I think it will be better for next year’s team than it was this past year.”
P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige will provide UNC with three returning starters that played significant minutes in crunch time, while Leslie McDonald will likely move into the starting lineup after a solid finish to his red-shirt junior season.
While Hairston edged Desmond Hubert for most improved player at last month’s awards ceremony, Williams pointed to Paige as the most improved player during the course of the season.
“A lot of times in basketball you’ll see a drastic improvement from a guy’s freshman year to his sophomore year,” Williams said. “Then you start thinking about Marcus and he was pretty doggone good at the end of the year. It’s hard for a guy that’s already that good to show that drastic improvement, but every time he shoots the ball I think its going in and he shot 36 percent this year. So I think that he’ll shoot it a lot better.”
For McAdoo, the offseason focus will be continued growth in adjusting to his role as UNC’s go-to post scorer.
“I think James Michael is going to understand a little bit to just slow down a little,” Williams said. “I’ve told James Michael [that] John Wooden had a great saying that I’ve always loved: ‘Be quick but don’t hurry.’ Because James Michael a lot of times really hurries himself.”
Hairston will move back to the 2- and 3-spots next season, although Williams acknowledged the junior guard would likely play the 4-spot in certain late-game situations due to free throw shooting needs.
“P.J. got a little bit better putting the ball on the floor and taking it to the basket,” Williams said. “That’s something he needs to improve on over the course of the summer. He needs to work on pulling up midrange and not just being a 3-point shooter and work on his ball handling so he can have a better assist-error ratio."
Williams also added this tidbit on Hairston: "I think P.J. is stepping up and being more of a leader already that I’ve seen in the offseason."
The primary question leading into practice next fall revolves around which post player will emerge as a complementary option at the 5-spot alongside McAdoo – a probe that went unanswered last season.
“We need one of the big guys, or two of the big guys, to step up and say that they can play,” Williams said. “And not only say it, but prove it… Somebody with size has got to step forward. Whether its Joel [James], whether its Desmond, whether its Isaiah [Hicks] or Kennedy Meeks or Brice Johnson. If they do that, then we’ve got a chance.
When the topic of conversation turned to Hicks and his 34-point, 30-rebound effort in the N.C. state championship game in March, Williams quipped: “That’s about three months worth for some of our guys this year.”
The Hall of Fame coach compared Hicks to McAdoo in terms of neither being a true post player, but praised the incoming rookie’s shot blocking and rebounding ability.
And while Williams admitted that Meeks may not pass the look test, the 6-foot-9, 270-pound center pairs savvy with quality post moves underneath.
“Kennedy Meeks is really an unusual basketball type,” Williams said. “Imagine Sean May when he was a senior in high school and that’s what you have. The body type, a little overweight, great hands, probably a better passer in the halfcourt situation than Sean was. Probably not as good of a rebounder.
“If he does what I think he’s going to do, he’ll be the best outlet passer that I’ve ever coached. Kennedy can get the ball off the board and turn and throw it three-quarters length of the court and the guy lays it up on the other end. He does that a lot.”
Another young player that will be forced into playing time next season due in part to a lack of bodies on the perimeter is rising sophomore J.P. Tokoto. Williams praised the athletic wing as having “tremendous” defensive and rebounding potential, but also highlighted some areas where work is needed.
“J.P. has to limit some of the things he does,” Williams said. “One of the greatest things you can do in basketball is realize your strengths and your weaknesses. You’ve got to emphasize your strengths and stay away from your weaknesses. And that’s a big area for J.P. He’s not an outside shooter. Now, I’m hoping he’s going to get a heck of a lot better during his career. His shot is not that bad. He just needs to make a few little changes that I think he can make.”
UNC’s Tar Heel Tour continues next Tuesday with stops in Winston-Salem, Rocky Mount and Durham.