Question Marks Hanging Around

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – There were obvious questions surrounding No. 4 North Carolina's backcourt entering the '09-'10 season, but the situation became real when news of a lackluster performance leaked from the program's secret scrimmage against Vanderbilt last Sunday.

"We just didn't play well at all," UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters on Thursday. "We were just ugly. We were just yucky. I'm saying the good words. And since then, we've gotten a lot better. I think the seriousness has hit them, the recognition of how good other people are that they may not even have ever heard of. I think that was a good slap in the face for us as opposed to waiting until the season started."

Speculation surrounding the scrimmage pointed to legitimate struggles by expected point guard heir Larry Drew. Williams seemed to confirm that information, indicating that his California sophomore had shown improvement in the preseason "with the exception of the scrimmage against Vanderbilt."

Senior wing Marcus Ginyard suggested that the media is making a bigger deal out of the backcourt concerns than is warranted, saying that he is "very comfortable" with the point guard position, in particular.

"There were times when we saw some very good plays from [the point guard] position and from all of our positions," Ginyard said about the scrimmage. "And there were some times when we saw that we needed to have more of a sense of urgency and we needed to be more intense and we needed to execute a little better. Overall, I think that was a great experience for us, we took a lot from it and we've been building on it since then."

Finding a reliable scoring threat from the perimeter joins the point guard spot as the top two topics of conversation surrounding the program this preseason. Nobody has stepped up as the go-to shooter in practice yet, but as Williams pointed out, the 2008-09 national championship team relied on various individuals stepping up when needed, whether it be Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington or Danny Green.

But that doesn't make the fact that Williams has to replace 93.9 percent (248 of 264) of the '09 title team's three-point shooting any easier.

"Last year we had an abundance of guys who could make [three-pointers], and so far we haven't shown – even in practice – that we have guys that can make a lot of them right now," Williams said. "We need to find somebody, because we do need to have good balance. I thought one of the keys in '06 of really getting things going was when Wes [Miller] became more of a factor because he just opened up the defense a little more and got people out of the lane."

Red-shirt junior Will Graves has often been labeled as the program's best pure shooter, but back problems have led to weight issues this offseason – the Greensboro, N.C. native is up to approximately 254 pounds after checking in at 239 pounds last season.

With an exhibition game against Belmont Abbey on Friday preceding the season opener on Monday against Florida International, North Carolina's practice schedule was been compressed so tightly that it's been difficult to get the freshmen options – including guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald – up to speed with the vast information that comes along with Williams' up-tempo system.

"They can only learn things at a certain speed and that changes with each individual," Williams said. "A more experienced team could handle this and probably would enjoy a fewer number of days of practice. We went out onto the court Tuesday and [Wednesday], and both days I said, ‘Guys, it's a little longer than I wanted it to be, but we need to work. We've got to get it going. We've got things to do.'

"We're really throwing a lot of things at them out there. The freshmen – their heads are just spinning."

While Williams said that "some" answers to the offseason questions have been discovered, the real knowledge won't arrive until the ball is rolled out onto the court in official settings.

"In practice, you can't simulate what they're going to face in a game, so we won't really know a lot of these answers until we start playing people," Williams said. "… We will have a lot of answers by Christmas time."

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