Strickland Staying Focused

Dexter Strickland opted for a less common basketball itinerary this summer. Rather than play on the AAU circuit, the plan was for him to participate in a bunch of camps and work out individually

However, a hamstring injury kept the future Tar Heel from participating in the camps.

While playing in a team camp with Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, Strickland injured his hamstring. At first he didn't realize the seriousness of the injury, and opted to travel to Africa with adidas Nation. That decision backfired.

"I thought I was good to go, but going down there just made it worse," he said. "I toughened it up and played three games down there, but when I came back I found out that I had irritated it more. I had to sit out more and the consequences of that was missing Steve Nash, LeBron, NBA Camp and USA Camp."

Those four events -- NBA Top 100 Camp (June 17-22), Steve Nash Skills Academy (June 25-27), USA U18 National Team Trials (July 1-3) and LeBron Skills Academy (July 5-8) – comprised the key individual camps of the summer.

But despite missing them, the 6-3, 175-pound rising senior feels like he's getting better through his workouts. He's put together a two-a-day regimen, attacking different aspects of his game.

"I've just been in the gym," Strickland said. I haven't been on the AAU circuit or any of that. I've just been in the gym everyday, working out twice a day. I'm trying to get my body in shape and get ready for the season."

"I was really trying to get the mental part of my game right," he added. "Not to brag, but I think I have developed some skills on the court as far as ball handling and stuff like that. But knowing the game and understanding it is something that I've been trying to develop this summer."

Not playing AAU was a little different for Strickland, but the No. 15-ranked prospect in the 2009 class said he felt he could get better spending time working out on his own.

"Personally I don't feel playing three games in a day will make me better," Strickland said. "I did miss playing with my friends that I've been playing with since we were seven, eight, nine years old.

"I'm just trying to get better," he continued. "I'm trying to get prepared for college and hopefully the next level after that. I don't think AAU can prepare me for that, so that's why I didn't participate in AAU this year."

Strickland, who is No. 4 on's shooting guard list, said he's also been following North Carolina's recruitment this year and is happy with how his class is coming together.

"I think it's shaping up real well," Strickland said. "We got some big kids coming in. The Wear twins, Leslie McDonald, Larry Drew coming in before and the kid Kendall Marshall coming in after me. I think we are going to have a great chance of getting a championship."

Although he won't sport a Carolina jersey for another year, Strickland has already developed bonds with a few current Tar Heels.

"Me and Kendall keep in touch and text each other all the time. I even have relationships with some of the guys there like Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson. We all have a strong relationship."

Strickland will be back in action this coming week, as he's planning to head to Dallas (Tex.) for adidas Nation. Following that event, he'll participate in the Elite 24 game at Rucker Park on August 22.

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