Tommy: Reader Mail

They say idleness is the devil's workshop and I would have to agree. How many times in your lifetime, however long it's been or however short, have you had nothing to do or talk about only to end up doing or saying something stupid? In the 11 days since the Kentucky loss back on December 7th, those that follow the Heels have been treated to a myriad of "What happened?" questions. Carolina starts so strong on the hardwood and then gets blown out twice. What happened?

While there is no need to rehash what's been written about the basketball team's immediate future both here at iC and in other outlets, the importance of the next six games for the Tar Heels cannot be overstated. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say, the next three weeks will likely be the make it or break it portion of the schedule for the Tar Heel basketball season. The Florida State game is clearly the most important game because of conference standings, but the other five games, beginning with Vermont tomorrow night and concluding with Davidson January 8th are just as critical in terms of the mindset this team will have heading into the brutal ACC. Enter on high and the sky is the limit. Take a few more lumps and who knows what the future may hold…


In last week's column, I discussed the need for Damion Grant and Byron Sanders to see increased minutes on the floor in order for the Tar Heels to meet the high expectations created by this season's fast start.

Needless to say, playing armchair coach in a column drew out quite a few responses from the iC readers. I'll share a few and allow fellow ‘armchair coaches' to be heard on the issue. As has always been the case with Carolina basketball, the fans are not shy about voicing their opinions on an issue.

************** Earl wrote:

Look at Duke. For years Duke did not have a lot of size and yet they were winning. It's about coaching and making do with what you have. Hey I'll take 5-2 anyday than 8-20.

How about when Carolina did have size? How many national championships did they win in the last 15 years? So don't talk to me about size. You talk to me about heart, desire and fight and guys willing to learn and about giving them an chance to develop and not what they don't have. If Bill Guthgride and Phil Ford would have made some better decision(s) we wouldn't be in this mess we are in today and that includes not having enough big men in which everybody from here to the mountains keep talking about this year with this Carolina Team. Also, the drive of the ‘93 championship team was George Lynch and not Eric Montross- the only big man that was capable of doing anything that year. How about all of those other talented teams - Jerry Stackhouse Jeff McInnis, Donald Williams, Rasheed Wallace? You tell me what hell happened - size, speed, what happened? So don't talk to me about size.

I agree Earl. 5-2 is a heck of a lot better than 8-20. But a great coach once compared a sports season to a marathon, not a sprint. There's a long way to go this season and in my opinion, Grant and Sanders need to play an important role for Carolina to be as successful as possible.

Lynch was clearly the leader of the '93 team and one of the great Tar Heel leader's of all time. He was also a senior and that was a huge part of him being that leader.
************** Josh wrote:

I agree with your points. I really agree with your point about Grant and Sanders. I have said this since the Illinois game. We need to get the two 'bigs' some experience and let them play. Playing Grant, allows May to rest or move to his natural PF and Williams to the WF. This gives a really big line-up. Sanders can give May a break and also play in the middle. He is very athletic and could provide us with some shot-blocking. I hope we keep developing at a nice pace and improve enough for a real nice run come March.

***If Sanders and Grant could play 10-15 minutes a night depending on the situation and give Carolina added shotblocking and rebounding, no one would be happier than Sean May. I'm sure of that.
************** Robert wrote:

I agree. Post defense is the biggest liability. I don't think it will get solved this year. Jawad is a poor post defender. Noel is better interior defender than Jawad, Sanders or Grant. Based on the little I've seen of Grant, he is terrible as man to man defender. He gives no help. But, he is huge. He might give may some rest if they play him in the middle of the zone. The Tar Heel zone against Kentucky was horrible. Obviously it has not been practiced much. The best hope is to get a couple of minutes from Sanders and Grant. Otherwise the Tar Heel guards have to double down when the ball goes inside to a good post scorer. Then, take the chance the outside open man will miss. It's too early to tell too much but it seems to me the team D is better with Noel than Jawad. Ultimately, as you point out, the lack of a good post defender/rebounder (other than May) will prevent a good team from possibly being a great team. Maryland will kill them inside. -another armchair coach.

***I agree that David Noel does a good job with what he has. He's strong enough to hold position inside against bigger guys but his lack of height hurts him in defending shots. He's a heck of an athlete though and I'd like to see him on the wing rather than down on the blocks against players much bigger. Jawad Williams struggles holding position because he's so light, but his height and long arms help, when he's in position. And his rebounding has been a pleasant surprise. It's way to early to pass judgement on Grant since he's played next to none. He and Sanders hold the key, one way or the other, to this team's future success in my opinion.
************** Craig wrote:

I'm not trying to play devil's advocate about you article. I agree Grant and Sanders must develop this year for UNC to hang with the other teams in the ACC. These guys are going to have to reach deep down inside and push themselves harder than they ever have before to make an impact for the rest of the season.

I would also like to get your thoughts on Raymond Felton. I feel he hasn't played his best ball yet. If feel like our inside low post defense may benefit from a highly unlikely source; our point guard. I would like to see Felton penetrate in the lane some more and draw some fouls on the opposing teams' big men. Let's get them into foul trouble so they will have to play cautious and passive. I would like to see Ray hit some more outside shots also which would loosen up the middle as well. I know it's a lot to ask but Felton is going to have to be our Jason Williams this year. IMOP a scoring point guard will counter many of our deficiencies. Felton has the talent to elevate his game. I'm not sure if Grant and Sanders have that ability. I think they will be good over time, of course as a hard core Tar Heel fan I am hoping for the best for all the Carolina players.

***Great point on Felton though I think he showed his ability late in the Kentucky game. He's a special player and if allowed to be himself and do what comes natural on the court, he will be talked of for a long time down the road. But, while I agree that he needs to attack more on offense, Carolina has plenty of weapons other than Felton on that end of the court to handle what you propose.

Thanks to all who've written and keep the comments coming to In future columns, I'll share more reader opinions on the topic du jour!

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