[Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that since Zeke now lives in a country that is, unfortunately, 5 time zones removed from Chapel Hill, the site has been falling down on the job a bit when it comes to Carolina-related recaps and commentary. Well, we’re hoping to change that: Please everyone welcome friend of the site and new contributor Rob Weldon, who will be giving us UNC news from the sunny confines of California. Take a quick gander at Rob’s bio here, then read some of his thoughts on LD2 below, with Zeke adding thoughts at the bottom]
So it’s official: Larry Drew II’s gone and the whole turn of events at this point is just ugly. (Editor’s note: best three-sentence summary of everything comes from friend of the blog Luke Meadows: leaving in the middle of ACC play, when he had started playing his smartest ball, and even though he wasn’t starting, his minutes weren’t down that much. this is wrong on so many levels. maybe the II on his jersey wasn’t for “the second”; maybe he was just framing the extension on the giant middle finger he just gave UNC.) I feel sorry for this 20 year old and the remaining players simply because the pressure on these guys can be rough. For Drew II, it was too much and his statement that it was “unfortunate that my career didn’t meet expectations in Chapel Hill” pretty much spells that out. Strange thing is that UNC rarely had players regularly transferring. Duke’s the place to go if you’re not sure you want to stay in one place for four years; it’s the land of the eventual transfer and double-faced talk about family. Now Chapel Hill’s feeling the pressure of loads of talent and unrealistic expectations (even for McDonald’s All-Americans).
What we can do is figure out some implications to this transfer. First, in the short term, brought to you by Rob Weldon:
This mid-season transfer won’t be a big deal because of the direct loss of his 4 points and 4 assists — they aren’t particularly gaudy anyway. The biggest deal comes as a result of the dual nature of the point guard position that had been created between Marshall and Drew. Now Marshall, a precocious freshman, but freshman nevertheless, will be playing 30+ minutes a game. That’s a lot of minutes; and a lot more than the 20 minutes he was averaging. As evidenced by the FSU game, Marshall is a baller. His record-breaking 16 assists tell a lot of the story, but he also looked extremely poised throughout the game. But toward the end of the game when he had one notable palming violation, one could clearly see the kid was struggling for some rest, electrolytes and maybe a Pepto-bismol. Apparently, at halftime he’d vomited into a trashcan.
What will happen when the sample size of Marshall-led games goes from one FSU game, in which the Seminole players admitted to underestimating the freshman point guard, to two games? Suffice to say that Duke will not underestimate Kendall after Sunday’s performance, and will be more than prepared for him to pass nearly every possession - he’s going to be forced to prove he can score as well as dish.
Drew II may not have been Magic Johnson with the ball, but he certainly was not Dexter Strickland, our third string point guard. Dex can be great and the FSU game highlighted some of his unique strengths. However, ballhandling and passing are not his greatest strengths. He manages to run really fast, jump really high THEN decide where the ball will go. Seems like it ends up as the opposite of a hockey assist: the pass that leads to the turnover. Great defender that he is, I’m nervous thinking about showcasing his point guard play again this year.
This shift then affects the rest of the rotation. For much of this season, Roy’s been employing a 10-deep roster until Justin Watts sprained his ankle a few games ago. He’s recovered from his ankle injury just in time to keep the competitive number of players high. My hope is that with Watts back from his injury, Carolina can still run with any team and go nine players deep regularly. With Drew II gone, it’ll be tougher to keep the point guard play consistently high, but the Heels have a great collection of wings that are just finding their stroke.
Of course, the Heels are now extremely vulnerable to injury at one of the most important positions. The past season showed how a few injuries could derail a season. Let’s just hope that if the team continues to remain consistent from deep and the post, UNC just might find that it’s got a resilient identity based around Roy’s core concepts of tough and fast play. If nothing else, Carolina will start destroying teams with… really impressive friendships? On their new good vibrations: Strickland says the “ team chemistry is at an all-time high right now.” And Tyler Zeller, not to be outdone, says it’s “very, very good – I would argue it’s the best in the nation.”
Hear that, dookies? Best in the nation.
And a few thoughts on long-term effects of the transfer, courtesy of Zeke Smith:
Beyond the depth problems Roy has to figure out for the rest of this season, the Drew II transfer creates some issues for next year and possibly beyond. As this News and Observer article details, Roy may need to go out and recruit a point guard for next year but unfortunately, according to scouting analysts like Dave Telep, the crowd is pretty thin at that position. There’s always the chance for a Justin Knox or someone similar to fall into UNC’s lap as he did after the Wear twins transferred last year, but that scenario is a long shot.
Speaking of recruiting, it’s also interesting to look at how Roy may view West Coast kids moving forward as he’s had a number of problems with them in the past few years. It’s easy to see why Williams has recruited in California in the past; it’s a talent-rich state, obviously, and the California recruits he brought to Kansas included an All-American (Paul Pierce), an NABC co-player of the year (Drew Gooden), a Big 8 player of the year (Jaque Vaughn), and an NCAAA Southeast Regional MOP (Alonzo Jamison). However, since coming to UNC his California recruits have included one solid starter for a title team (Deon Thompson), one mostly-disappointing point man (Quentin Thomas), and four transfers (Alex Stepheson, the Wear Twins and Larry Drew II). It’s interesting that each of the transfers seemed to stem from family issues of one kind or another - Stepheson obviously left on more understandable terms, wanting to be near to family due to his father’s illness, but it’s an issue to consider nonetheless. The other three all seemed to have parents with a strained relationship to Roy and the UNC program in general, and in Larry Drew’s case there was some annoyance expressed over his decision to train in the offseason at home rather than stay in Chapel Hill. Obviously you still want to recruit the most talented kids in the country when you’re a program with the prestige of Carolina, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Roy and his staff concentrate their efforts on East-coast kids moving forward.
Or maybe the problem isn’t necessarily geographical, but oriented with the type of families the Wears and Larry Drew have. There have been lots of stories from recruiting analysts over the course of the last few years that domineering parents are becoming even more of a problem in the world of college basketball than perceived threats like agents and runners. Carolina has always had a reputation for recruiting character guys, but the vitriol that Drew has faced with his decision may even strengthen that ideal going forward. Hopefully those still in the Carolina family will back this up - the next time one of the players’ parents starts griping in the stands, can you imagine the kind of looks they might get?
A freshman replacing him with a record setting performance; a fan base that he’s burned just about every bridge with now; a program and a team that seems stronger with him gone and has renewed ideals for their recruits moving forward. It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for Larry Drew II. Almost.