The Youngest Team in the Nation

CHAPEL HILL, NC--You've heard over and over how young the 2002-2003 edition of the UNC men's basketball team is. Upperclassmen are sparse and experience is lacking, and that means freshmen and sophomores will have to contribute.

According to research published in the Syracuse Post-Standard, this season's Tar Heel basketball team is the youngest in the country of the eight largest Division I conferences. Syracuse is second-youngest by a considerable margin.

Over the first 49 years of ACC play, the Tar Heels have have averaged eight juniors and seniors on the roster. There are nine student-athletes on scholarship this season, in addtion to a Morehead Scholar, and a freshman walk-on. Three additional walk-ons join the team this year. Of the 11 players who could eventually make up the "regular rotation," only Jonathan Holmes and Will Johnson are seniors, and they have scored a combined 195 career points at UNC. Six of the 11 players have never played a college game.

This is the youngest team in school history--at least as far back as rosters have been recorded. Prior to this season, the lowest number of juniors/seniors on the preseason roster was four in 1990-91: seniors Pete Chilcutt, Rick Fox, King Rice, and junior Hubert Davis. That team finished 29-6 and fell to the Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA National Semifinals in Indianapolis, IN.

The team's leading returning scorer (9.8) and rebounder(4.2) from last year's 8-20 season is sophomore Jawad Williams. Including the six years of experience from the seniors and three years from the sophomores, there is an average of less than one year per man--and even that is high because the seniors have been used sparingly over their careers.

As of Sunday November 11, Matt Doherty had not decided upon a starting line-up. In all probability, two freshmen will start with the possibility of three starting--something that has NEVER happened in UNC's history in any game. And if it doesn't happen in the first game, it still could take place at some point this season.

What does this all mean? Expect inconsistency. This team will defeat some teams they shouldn't and lose to some teams they shouldn't--and, like it or not, much of that will depend upon the performances of the freshmen.

Here's a look back at UNC's first-game freshmen starters and their Tar Heel debut production:

Year Player Points Rebs. Assists T/O's Opponent
74-75 Phil Ford 9 1 3 5 Biscayne
76-77 Mike O'Koren 15 3 2 4 NC State
79-80 James Worthy 12 10 1 N/A NC State
81-82 Michael Jordan 12 2 1 N/A Kansas
83-84 Kenny Smith 14 2 5 2 Missouri
86-87 J.R. Reid 12 6 1 2 Hawaii
87-88 Pete Chilcutt 14 13 4 1 Syracuse
87-88 Rick Fox 15 7 1 3 Syracuse
95-96 Vince Carter 4 4 2 N/A Vanderbilt
95-96- Antawn Jamison 5 10 1 1 Vanderbilt
96-97 Ed Cota 14 5 7 4 Arizona
97-98 Brendan Haywood 3 2 N/A N/A MTSU
98-99 Jason Capel 7 10 5 5 App. St.
98-99 Kris Lang 15 3 N/A N/A App. St.
99-00 Joseph Forte 24 5 3 2 South. Cal.
00-01 Adam Boone 0 1 3 2 Winthrop
01-02 Jawad Williams 10 7 1 3 Hampton

Figures provided by UNC Athletic Communications.

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