Freshmen Impact

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- It didn't take long for the newcomers to make an impact in North Carolina's opening exhibition game Friday night. After a dunk by junior Reyshawn Terry on the first possession, the next 25 Tar Heel points were all scored by freshmen.

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  • Tyler Hansbrough made the biggest splash, recording blocks on the first two defensive possessions, then scoring nine points in the first four minutes. He had 20 points in the first half, before finishing with a game-high 26 points and 8 boards.

    "He is really active – he is an energetic kid," Roy Williams said. "I said it this week, he has more of an appetite for going after the ball on the boards than just about any freshman I've ever coached."

    Hansbrough will undoubtedly be the focal point of Carolina's post game this season. And while he can create points from the offensive boards, the team has made it a priority to feed him in the half court set.

    "We work on getting him the ball in the post in practice, so it's definitely something we've worked on and he was able to finish, just like he does in practice," said senior David Noel. "I told y'all he was a beast and he definitely showed that."

    Williams kept his pre-game promise to start a different lineup in each half. Returning guards Quentin Thomas and Wes Miller started in the backcourt, then Williams replaced them with freshmen Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard to begin the second half.

    After the game, Williams stressed not to read too much into that, other than the fact that deciding the starting lineup hasn't crossed his mind yet.

    "I have no idea [who is going to start]," Williams said. "I told them we were going to start one at the start of the game and the other at the start of the second half. I really haven't spent one second on thinking about who is starting. I really haven't. We're just trying to teach our principles."

    Frasor appeared comfortable at the point, recording seven points and four assists – two of which were of the highlight variety – to only one turnover.

    "He's steady," observed Noel. "He backs up ‘Q' and that's something we're going to need … with him and Bobby we have a steady rotation of two good guards."

    Ginyard, still playing with a cast on his left hand to protect the broken wrist he suffered this summer, managed six points and three assists.

    "The next couple days [Ginyard] may get the cast cut back more," Williams said. "They may give him more space around the thumb, which will help him catch the ball since that's the most difficult thing for him right now."

    Danny Green came off the bench to score 11 points. The fifth freshman, Michael Copeland, was in uniform and participated in the pregame shootaround, but sat out the game as he continues to recover from knee surgery.

    The freshmen's offensive contributions were obvious, but their defensive play was perhaps more impressive and has been throughout the first three weeks of practice.

    "I do believe this club can be a good defensive team," Williams said. "Bobby's dad was a high school coach … and I've said many times I think Marcus is going to be a really good defender, so those two come in a little ahead of the game from what you normally see as freshman.

    "[Tyler] has a nice savvy on the defensive end of the floor," Williams added, though noting his concern that Hansbrough's activeness could lead to foul trouble.

    All four freshmen registered blocks and steals in the box score. Hansbrough led the way with four blocks and three steals, including one in the open floor that he took the length of the court for a dunk.

    "He goes 100 percent whether it's a practice or a game," said Miller. "It's pretty obvious from watching this game that Tyler Hansbrough is a big-time player."

    Key in the freshmen's initial development and early confidence has been the senior leadership provided by Noel, who may claim to lead by example (and did with many heady plays on Friday), but is the most vocal and outgoing member of the team – and also its top returning scorer and rebounder.

    "David does have a presence," Williams said. "His value may be more of a presence he has that kids trust him and he gives them a little experience out there."

    The performances and stat lines by the four freshmen were noteworthy, but in the end this was a mere D-II opponent – what Williams referred to as a "glorified practice." Hansbrough was able to dominate the post against Fayetteville State, but his weaknesses – and the team's lack of post depth – will be exposed against bigger and more experienced front lines. And Frasor, Ginyard and Green won't find it nearly as easy to maneuver on the perimeter against the quicker and stronger defenders that await them in the ACC.

    But, ready or not, these freshmen will be thrown to the fire.

    "They've got to play," Williams said. "[Whether I'm] uncomfortable [with it] or not, I look over there and they are talented kids. There are going to be times when four freshmen are going to be in the game and if Michael gets healthy there might be a time we have five.

    "They've come a long way, but we've got a heck of a long way to go."

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