Williams Points to Improved Options

A year ago, Roy Williams was like the captain of a sinking ship - trying to patch up hole after hole.

There were just too many to keep the vessel afloat.

This year nearly all the holes appear to have been filled.

North Carolina has added freshmen Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock, a pair of long and offensive-minded wings who can put the ball in the basket. Barnes gives the Tar Heels a go-to guy and a big wing who is able to make plays – two areas sorely lacking a year ago. Both Barnes and Bullock will also fill another major void last year: perimeter shooting.

There was also an issue with leadership – one that Barnes should have help solve.

So leaves the one final major hole – and Williams doesn't seem nearly as concerned about it as his fan base.

Point guard play.

It'll be the key to whether the Tar Heels can return to national prominence this season.

Williams points to Larry Drew II's 220 assists a year ago despite playing with a team around him that had lost six guys that were making money (four in the NBA and two overseas).

"He did a lot of really good things," Williams said of Drew. "But he was being compared to Ty (Lawson)."

Drew will never be Lawson, but if he can develop into a solid, capable floor leader and make enough quality decisions and shots, North Carolina could make a legitimate postseason run this season.

"Larry has the ability," Williams said. "He definitely has the ability. He's got great feel, length and quickness. He can also be a fantastic defender.

"He's got the tools – and now he's got the experience."

Williams is also breathing easier now that he's got other options at the point.

"Last year we didn't even have a third point guard," he said. "Now we've got three options."

There's Drew, freshman Kendall Marshall and sophomore Dexter Strickland – who was thrust into a reserve role running the team a year ago after having virtually no experience playing the point.

Marshall, meanwhile, has a remarkably high hoops IQ that will give him a shot at winning the starting point guard spot from Drew at some point this season.

"Dexter never played the point until last year so now he's got some experience – and he has Rajon Rondo-type speed," Williams said. "Kendall is the opposite of both Larry and Dexter. He lacks some things athletically, but he's built from the shoulders up. He's a true quarterback."

"Now we've got three scenarios that are all better than we had last year," Williams added.

And Drew or whoever is running the show will have far more around them than was the case a year ago. Barnes on the wing is the biggest addition, while sophomore John Henson will slide into Ed Davis' spot and Tyler Zeller will replace Deon Thompson up front.

That leaves one spot on the perimeter – and it could go to Bullock, Strickland or even veteran Will Graves – who started 33 games a year ago and is down to 232 pounds (he was 247 last season).

"Last year people didn't guard Marcus on the perimeter," Williams said. "With as well as Harrison and Reggie shoot it, guys are going to have to guard the perimeter and that should open it up for Larry."

* Williams noted about Alabama transfer Justin Knox, who has one year to play immediately with the Tar Heels. "I think he's going to be fine," Williams said. "He's a physical specimen. He's 6-9 and 250 – and it's not fat."

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