“What you see is what we’ve got,” head coach Roy Williams told reporters on Thursday afternoon.
As another week has passed without any official clarification regarding the eligibility status of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald – Williams indicated neither player would travel this weekend – there have been some revelations regarding UNC’s current lineup. And few are of the positive variety.
James Michael McAdoo is leading UNC in scoring with 19.7 points per game on 50 percent shooting despite playing roughly 10 minutes per game out of position behind J.P. Tokoto at the 3-spot, the position most affected by the absence of Hairston and McDonald. Marcus Paige (18.0 ppg in 34.7 mpg) may beg to differ on that point, however, as the sophomore point guard has played all but a handful of minutes at the 2-spot.
That move has forced true freshman Nate Britt into the starting point guard role. Williams said that Britt (2.7 ppg, 6 assists, 5 TO) is struggling more than Paige did at this time last year.
“He came in thinking that he was going to be the backup to Marcus and maybe play a little bit with him, just like Marcus came in thinking that he was going to be backing up Kendall and may play a little bit with him,” Williams said. “But Marcus had a little bit more lead time and Nate hasn’t had that lead time, so it’s been a little bit more difficult for him.”
Williams also suggested that Britt can play better and has shown improvement on a daily basis, noting the various responsibilities involved with running the offense.
“Playing the point guard spot, I think, is the most difficult one as a freshman and yet I’ve had a lot of guys come and start as a freshman the point guard,” Williams said.
While bodies are short on the perimeter, that’s not the case in the post, although there hasn’t been a consistent presence outside of McAdoo. Joel James has started all three games at the 5-spot, but has split time with Kennedy Meeks, Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons. James leads that quartet in minutes at 13.0 per game.
Sophomore forward Brice Johnson has played well in spurts, averaging 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game, providing a legitimate backup to McAdoo for when the junior shifts out to the wing.
One post player that hasn’t seen much time thus far is freshman Isaiah Hicks (1.3 ppg, 7.7 mpg), although his limited play against Belmont – just two minutes – didn’t sit well with Williams.
“It was the only thing at the end of the game that I was really mad at myself about,” Williams said. “I should have given him more opportunities, so we’re going to give him more opportunities.”
The roster restraints extend beyond the games. While Hairston and McDonald have joined the “Blue Show” – the name of this year’s crop of walk-ons – in serving as an opponent scout team in practice, their absence will be felt in UNC’s two practices on Friday in Connecticut.
“I think ‘Blue Show,’ for example, is extremely limited without P.J. or Leslie,” Williams said. “So how can they simulate what Richmond’s going to do as well as they can when P.J. and Leslie [play]? And that’s what those guys have been doing over the last couple of weeks, so it even limits us there.”
UNC dealt with a load of adversity during the offseason and preseason, and quickly encountered that familiar foe in Sunday’s home loss to Belmont. According to Williams, his focus at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off – aside from winning – is to see how his team bounces back from that loss.
That’s critical, considering adversity has maintained a steady presence around this program in recent months.