Strickland Preparing for UNC

TRENTON, N.J. --- Surrounded by scores of autograph seekers, most of them his age, Dexter Strickland looks at ease.

He's got his long 6-foot-3 inch frame crammed into a seat at the Sovereign Bank Arena, but he's comfortable. Excited to be a member of North Carolina's stacked recruiting class of 2009, the St. Patrick senior still thinks it's a trip to be signing autographs.

"It feels great, it's a blessing," says Strickland, as fans mob him for autographs or a picture. "I would have never thought that I would be at this point signing autographs. I'm a kid just like them."

While he gives off an air of confidence, the athletic guard is focused. He's focused on finishing his senior year in style and preparing for his arrival in Chapel Hill.

"It's been all right," Strickland says of his senior campaign. "I've been banged up pretty good and I've missed a couple of games because of injuries. But I'm glad that the team is winning and we've made it this far."

Long known for his ability to finish above the rim, Strickland is a lean slasher who loves to attack off the dribble. But, it's learning to play for the team and not just himself that he's most proud of.

"I'm just becoming a team player overall," answers Strickland when asked about his biggest improvement. "When I was in AAU and coming into high school I wasn't really used to playing defense and team ball. Being at St. Pat's has taught me that. It's taught me not only to be a good player on the court but a good person off of it."

Without any hesitation, Strickland gives a lot of the credit for his evolution into an elite high school basketball player to his high school coach.

"Kevin Boyle is teaching me these things and it's prepared me," Strickland says. "I hope to take what I've learned to UNC and to capitalize on that and get better."

Of course, the future Tar Heel is keeping close tabs on his future teammates.

"I watch them all the time," he says. "Obviously they just played Duke and I watched that. I had my Carolina hoody on and I was excited. I can't wait to get down there. Just to be a part of the team and the history over the years is a blessing."

With fans eager to see how he fits into the puzzle as a freshman, Strickland is hoping to bring some intangibles to the table next season.

‘Leadership and commitment," says Strickland of what he hopes to bring as a freshman. "I want to go out there and work hard every day and try to win a national championship."

In the meantime, he's keeping in touch with his fellow recruits in hopes of building a bond before he arrives on campus in June.

"I talk to them a lot," Strickland says. "I talk to Leslie McDonald a lot and we text message over the phone. I talk to Kendall Marshall all the time and the Wear twins. I'm just trying to keep communication with all of them and build for the future."

"It's a great class. I'm glad to be a part of it. I feel real confident that we can make it to a Final Four or maybe win a championship when we are there."

For now, though, it's back to the autograph hounds and finishing his career as a high school basketball player. After that, Strickland just wants to keep working.

"I think I need to improve on everything," he says.. "I don't ever want to be satisfied with my game play now."

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