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Heels See Some Action in the Bahamas; Also Play a Little Basketball

Hey now… I kid! I kid! (You can blame those UNC party boat pictures that came out last year for that headline.)

Carolina basketball saw their first competitive action of the year in a two-game preseason exhibition tour in the Bahamas this week, and naturally they breezed past the Commonwealth Bank Giants (wait, who?) 130-87, and beat the Bahamas All Stars 123-86. Obviously the results have to be taken with a fairly large grain of salt, since according to Tar Heel Fan the opposition was trotting out one player who was 6’1” and 300 pounds, but it’s never too early to try and extrapolate a few things from the results:

  • Harrison Barnes appears ready and willing to score. He led the team with 44 points over the two games on 28 field goal attempts, and may have even scored more than that since according to Adam Lucas at Tar Heel Blue, the scorers were crediting Leslie McDonald with a few points that should have belonged to Barnes. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like even in the few photos that Inside Carolina sent back from the trip, the kid looks smooth (see picture at right for example, and click the photo to see a full gallery of pictures Jim Hawkins took during the games). Seems like Barnes can score inside and out, going 7-10 from 3pt range over the span of two games. He’s going to supply some much-needed firepower this season and be an immediate fan favorite in Chapel Hill because of it.
  • Larry Drew II sat out both games with an ankle injury, and by all accounts Kendal Marshall did a good job of running the offense in his stead. Marshall tallied 13 assists over the two games with just 3 turnovers, which is a good start for the freshman. Strickland apparently also saw time at the point but still is more of a scorer than an assist man, which means Marshall will probably be Drew’s primary backup.
  • John Henson looked “lithe” around the basket, putting up 16 points and 15 boards against the All Stars, and blocking 10 shots total in the two games. Carolina fans saw how much more effective he was playing the 4 towards the end of last year, and if he can stay out of foul trouble hopefully that effectiveness only increases this year.
  • Other notables: Tyler Zeller with 24 & 13 in the first game; Leslie McDonald with 25 points (maybe - see earlier note) in the second game; Reggie Bullock with 38 points combined in both games, including 4-8 from 3pt. As a team, the Heels shot 18-41 (44%) from three, which means a nice respite from last years absolutely putrid outside shooting could be in order.

Overall, signs are encouraging, but then again signs were encouraging when UNC was stomping over mid-major teams in the early part of last year, as well. Perhaps the biggest advantage that these kinds of trips create is the team building experience, and by all accounts the chemistry seems to be good thus far. Now the toughest part, as Lucas mentions in his THB column, is having to wait another two months to see these guys take the court again. Consider my appetite whetted.