North Carolina

Freshmen to contribute to No. 1-ranked Heels

Posted October 28, 2008
Updated October 29, 2008

— The storylines for this North Carolina basketball program are as numerous as they are intriguing, ranging from national title aspirations to offseason miscues to NBA discussions. But one topic of conversation is still its infant stages, and that is the four Tar Heel freshmen.

Point guard Larry Drew II (Encino, Calif.), shooting guard Justin Watts (Durham), power forward Ed Davis (Richmond, Va.) and center Tyler Zeller (Washington, Ind.) bring to this team what no one else could in 2007-08 – fresh faces.

In 2006, Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green and Marcus Ginyard were forced into early playing time due to the core pieces of North Carolina’s 2005 championship team either graduating or moving on to the NBA ranks. A similar situation could have occurred for this current group of freshmen, but the National Player of the Year decided to return to school for his senior year shortly after the Final Four loss to Kansas, and three other Tar Heels withdrew their name from the NBA Draft in the final hours before the deadline.

Not only did those decisions cement North Carolina as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2008-09 national championship, but it also provided the four freshmen with an invaluable learning curve that will be based on development and not necessity.

“They’re definitely going to get a chance to learn a lot from us, and also be able to contribute and be a part of something very special,” Wayne Ellington told reporters during Sunday’s ACC Operation Basketball in Atlanta.

Fans were able to get a sneak peek at the freshmen during “Late Night with Roy” on Friday night, and most observers in attendance left the scrimmage impressed with Zeller, a 7-foot, 220-pounder who posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Frasor told the media after the event that the lanky McDonald’s All-American runs the floor as well as most of the guards on the roster, and he possesses a soft touch that allows him to stretch the floor, as evidenced by his three-point shootout victory at the 2008 Kentucky Derby Festival. .

“I’d say Tyler Zeller has probably had more moments to make you say, ‘Wow!’ than anybody else has,” head coach Roy Williams said.

With Zeller reportedly gaining nearly 20 pounds since arriving in Chapel Hill, he will serve as a legitimate option to fill North Carolina’s need for a third big man.

“It’s hard to move him – you about can’t move him now,” Green said. “He’s long. You’ve got to box him out to 5 feet in order to get the rebound, because if you box him just a little bit, he’s going to jump over you and get the ball.”

Davis is another option for Williams in the post. The McDonald’s All-American stands 6-foot-10 and weighs in at 215, although Green indicated that Davis has also packed on 20 pounds since stepping on the UNC campus.

“He has a lot of moves offensively,” Ellington said. “He’s a shot-blocker – that’s something important that he brings to the table.”

Unfortunately, the injury bug has already jumped on the Virginia freshman.

“Ed’s got a little problem with his knee that we’ve been concerned about, [so we’re] trying to hold him out a little bit,” Williams said on Sunday. “We didn’t practice him on Saturday morning because we had done the scrimmage on Friday night.”

A UNC official confirmed to Inside Carolina on Tuesday that the diagnosis was "an irritated fat pad," and that Davis returned to practice on Monday.

Drew is the third McDonald’s All-American of the freshman class, and the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder was the luxury of learning behind Lawson and Frasor – two veteran point guards that have both led North Carolina to 20-plus win seasons during their careers.

“Larry’s a very smart point guard, with a quick first step,” Green said. “He has the potential to be a great point guard in the upcoming years. He just needs to become a more patient player... He has a consistent jump shot – he can really shoot the ball”

Williams’ up-tempo offense has thrived in Chapel Hill, thanks in large part to roadrunner-type point guards such as Lawson and Raymond Felton. But while Drew may not have that type of speed, his teammates claim he’s speedy enough to run this offense effectively.

“Don’t think Larry’s not fast,” Green said. “He’s a very fast point guard, but I think he’s more under control… Ty’s speed is out of this world. He’s on another level, but Larry’s not far behind him. He can move. In the next couple of years, he’s going to get better. He’s going to get faster and he’s going to get stronger.”

Watts is the fourth and final member of this class, but while he may not have entered this program with the McDonald’s All-American tag beside his name, he is a prospect that Williams scouted in person several times last season. The sixth-year UNC head coach told the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder last October to wait on his collegiate decision if he was not satisfied with his options.

Watts followed Williams' advice, and then in May, he was rewarded with a North Carolina scholarship offer.

“He’s very athletic,” Ellington said. “He can shoot the ball pretty well and he has a lot of potential. When he gets it down, and he understands what Coach Williams wants and he learns our system a little bit better, he has the chance to be a really good player.”

This freshman class may not be called upon to carry the load this season, but the lessons they will learn under the tutelage of Williams and a roster full of experienced veterans will lay the future foundation for this North Carolina program. It’s likely that 10 members of this current Tar Heel squad will be gone next summer, so these four individuals will move to forefront quick enough.

17 Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • cutclifferules Oct 29, 2008

    Or, he could beat out Al-Farouq(sp?). You never know. Marvin Williams won ROY and never started a game.

    Incidentally, I thought Ed Davis was the best of UNC's three freshmen. And I'm basing that strictly on the McD's All-American game. He was really quick to rebound and put-back, like Jamison.

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 29, 2008

    If Zellar receives enough PT, he may be a close 2nd for ROY.

  • cutclifferules Oct 29, 2008

    Honestly, I don't know much about Plumlee. But K doesn't have a good track record of improving his big men. The Duke great ones were great from the get-go. Maybe he too will be great from the get-go.

    And Bersticker was a bust, admittedly. Tons of talent, but no results. Again, it comes down to the coach. Doherty didn't develop it. Haywood at least coasted on his intimidating size, when he tried. I think Zeller will progress nicely.

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 29, 2008

    Zoollar is the next Bersticker. Plumlee is the next Dirk.

  • cutclifferules Oct 29, 2008

    Now there's a Vitale-ism for ya--"dynamic". Any more non-committal accolades you wanna throw Duke's way, OBD? How 'bout "Duke will do special things this year", or "They will without a doubt be one of the premiere teams in America".

    Plumlee better than Zeller? Not in any single recruiting ranking, magazine or all-star game played. One is the next great ACC center, one is the next Greg Newton.

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 29, 2008

    Oh, Kris, evidently you haven't done your homework this year. Duke will be a very dynamic team.

  • Kris0805 Oct 29, 2008

    I am sure Coach K will have Plumlee sticking to the 3 point line just like everyone else.

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 29, 2008

    OTH - Zoollar is nice, no doubt - but Plumlee is far more skilled. Zoolar is limited to the low-block only. Plumlee can score all over the court. Make sure Zoolar takes notes while he's warming his chair.

  • OriginalBlueDevil Oct 29, 2008

    wellMADBUCeducated - um, ok.

  • wellunceducated Oct 29, 2008

    hey dookgroup, you guys are funny! But only g-- guys go to dook and uva, and I am NOT g--. I am a alumni of CAROLINA, my sisters,my dad,my uncle,etc. All are CAROLINA alumns. I support CAROLINA $ ALOT!! I will, however,pull for uva when they play dook in any sport,and ANY body else that plays for LACROSSE DISGRACE,EMBARRAS,the ACC, dook!!!! WHO has 35 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS? That's right--THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA!

More...

 

 

  • ACC: Wake Forest at Duke

    Tonight at 8:00 on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: Syracuse at NC State

    Saturday at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Florida at Kentucky

    Saturday at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Pac 12: Stanford at Arizona

    Saturday at 4:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: Duke vs. Wake Forest

    Tonight at 8:00 on 620am

  • Big Ten: Wisconsin at Minnesota

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NBA: Dallas at Portland

    Tomorrow at 9:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NHL: Hurricanes vs. Minnesota

    Friday at 8:00 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHA 104
LAL 103
Final
GT 49
UNC 81
Final
CLEM 61
NCSU 66
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
CHA
 
8:00pm Tonight
DUKE
WAKE
 
Final
DET 15
BAL 2
 
Final
MIA 7
MIAFLA 1
 
Final
PHI 5
NYY 5
 
Final
BOS 2
NEASTERN 1
 
Final
TOR 7
PIT 8
 
Final
CIN 10
CLE 0
 
Final
OAK 9
SFG 4
 
Final
BOS 1
BOSTONCOLL 0
 
Final
ARI 4
ASU 0
 
1:05pm Today
BAL
DET
 
1:05pm Today
ATL
NYM
 
1:05pm Today
NYY
PHI
 
1:05pm Today
PIT
TOR
 
3:05pm Today
LOS
CWS
 
3:05pm Today
CLE
CIN
 
3:05pm Today
TEX
KAN
 
3:05pm Today
SFG
OAK
 
3:05pm Today
SEA
SDP
 
3:05pm Today
MIL
WMIL
 
3:10pm Today
COL
ARI
 
7:05pm Tonight
MIN
UMIN
 
Final
CLE 110
BOS 79
Final
CHA 104
LAL 103
Final
NYK 86
SAC 124
Final
ATL 104
HOU 96
Final
MEM 82
UTA 93
Final
CHI 97
WAS 92
Final
DEN 106
MIL 95
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
PHO
 
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
CHA
 
7:30pm Tonight
TOR
CLE
 
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
UTA
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
DEN
 
8:00pm Tonight
NOP
DET
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIA
LAL
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
MEM
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKC
PHI
 
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
SAC
 
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
MIL
 
10:30pm Tonight
LAC
POR
 
Final
UMO 70
AKR 63
 
Final
NAVY 56
ARMY 52
 
Final
BST 60
EMICH 67
 
Final
BUT 54
GEOR 60
Final
IND 63
IOWA 77
Final
FLGC 81
JVU 63
 
Final
USCU 90
KNST 54
 
Final
BGU 80
KSU 81
 
Final
NKENTUCKY 73
LIP 76
 
Final
HC 62
GHND 45
 
Final
RUTG 50
MD 60
Final
GT 49
UNC 81
Final
BUF 93
OHIO 66
 
Final
ALA 74
MISS 82
Final
DAY 75
RIU 59
Final
CMICH 85
TOL 77
 
Final
DET 77
YOUNG 67
Final
UNF 81
STET 67
 
Final
ABCHRIST 83
HOUB 71
 
Final
NDAK 78
NEOM 80
 
Final
NILL 65
WMICH 63
 
Final
ILLCH 60
WRST 57
Final
MIZZ 63
AUB 61
Final
UGA 64
KENT 72
Final
NW 82
MICH 78
Final
CLEM 61
NCSU 66
Final
UF 66
TEXAM 62
Final
KU 76
WVU 69
Final
CREI 72
VILL 76
12:00pm Today
PBY
LONG
 
2:00pm Today
GWEBB
CAMP
 
6:00pm Tonight
UNCA
LIB
 
6:00pm Tonight
PSU
OSU
 
7:00pm Tonight
USB
BING
 
7:00pm Tonight
FORD
DUQ
 
7:00pm Tonight
GMAS
GWU
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNH
HART
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJOE
LAS
 
7:00pm Tonight
Terriers
LIU
 
7:00pm Tonight
GTDNS
MAINE
 
7:00pm Tonight
LOU
ND
 
7:00pm Tonight
SHU
PROV
 
7:00pm Tonight
BRY
SHU
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
SEMIZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
MNTER
RFLSH
 
7:00pm Tonight
LSU
TENN
 
7:00pm Tonight
SFLA
UCF
 
7:00pm Tonight
VERM
UMBC
 
7:00pm Tonight
RMU
WAGN
 
7:30pm Tonight
UMASS
RICH
 
8:00pm Tonight
TULA
HOU
 
8:00pm Tonight
YALE
HOW
 
8:00pm Tonight
PITT
MIAMI
 
8:00pm Tonight
TXPA
NMST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MSU
PURD
 
8:00pm Tonight
STLU
BONA
 
8:00pm Tonight
DUKE
WAKE
 
9:00pm Tonight
TULSA
CIN
 
9:00pm Tonight
VANDY
MSST
 
9:00pm Tonight
EILL
SIUE
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
STJ
 
9:00pm Tonight
OKST
TCU
 
9:00pm Tonight
UCLA
USC
 
9:00pm Tonight
WYO
UTST
 
10:00pm Tonight
FRES
AFA
 
10:00pm Tonight
SJST
BSU
 
10:00pm Tonight
NEV
COLST
 
10:00pm Tonight
ILL
NEB
 
11:00pm Tonight
ORST
OREG
 
11:00pm Tonight
UNLV
SDST
 
11:59pm Tonight
HAW
UCSB
 
Final
PHI 2
CAL 3
Final
NJD 3
NAS 1
Final
CLB 3
WAS 5
Final
TAM 3
BUF 0
Final
FLA 2
TOR 3
Final
MIN 3
OTT 2
Final
DAL 3
NYI 2
Final
ARI 1
ANA 4
Final
VAN 2
SJS 6
Final
EDM 2
LOS 5
7:30pm Tonight
WIN
OTT
 
8:00pm Tonight
DET
NYR
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
MON
 
10:00pm Tonight
COL
PIT