Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

UNC Freshmen Stepping Up

December 11, 2001 Columns No Comments

The Flexible Freshmen

by Dan Hauptman

They used to not be able to play on the team. Up until 1972, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity basketball. The highest level they could play college basketball was junior varsity. That is not the case today, and nowhere is that trend more apparent than at Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

This year’s University of North Carolina men’s basketball team will rely heavily on four freshmen. Three of them are true freshmen (Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel, and Melvin Scott) and the fourth (Neil Fingleton) is a sophomore academically but considered a red-shirt freshman in the basketball arena. This number is exorbitantly high for a legendary school such as North Carolina, and the quartet will likely be the key to the success or failure of this year’s Tar Heel squad.

The four newcomers will have to be able to blend in with the returning starters (Jason Capel and Kris Lang) as well as fill the huge void left by the departures of many marquee players from last year’s 26-7 team. The highest scorer (Joseph Forte), top rebounder (Brendan Haywood), assist leader (Ronald Curry), best shot blocker (Haywood), and key sixth man (Julius Peppers) from the 2000-2001 Carolina team will probably all be absent this year. The burden from this collective loss will undoubtedly fall on the shoulders of the players brought in to replace them, the freshmen.

Fortunately for Coach Matt Doherty and the Tar Heels, this rookie class appears to be talented and prepared to handle the enormous challenge ahead. The three true freshmen were in the top echelon of the 2001 recruiting class, while Fingleton was selected to the 2000 McDonald’s All-America team. “I’m excited about the three freshmen,” Doherty said about Scott, Manuel and Williams. “They have versatility and can pass, handle and shoot. They can guard with good quickness and long arms. They also are good kids.” Doherty said about Fingleton’s return from back surgery, “I think Neil will be a very good basketball player. He will certainly have a chance to play. The more in shape he is, the better player he will be.”

The most ballyhooed Carolina incoming freshman is Jawad Williams. The 2001 McDonald’s All-American was a top-ten prospect according to many recruiting publications. Williams, a 6-9 forward from Lakewood, Ohio, started the season opener for the Tar Heels. “Jawad Williams is one of the most athletic guys I have ever seen,” said Jason Capel, who started as a freshman on the 1998-1999 squad. “He’s going to bring a lot of versatility. With a front line of Jawad, Kris and myself there are lot of interchangeable parts and a lot of mismatch problems that we can take advantage of.”

The other two true freshmen reside in the UNC backcourt. Guards Melvin Scott and Jackie Manuel were also in the upper tier of the 2001 recruiting class. Scott, 6-2 from Baltimore, Maryland, will probably play point guard during his stay in Chapel Hill. Manuel, 6-6 from West Palm Beach, Florida, is expected to compete for the starting shooting guard position for Carolina this season. “Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott always wanted to come to Carolina,” Doherty said. “They are a great fit because they can play a number of positions and give us some flexibility.”

Although Neil Fingleton spent last season practicing with the varsity team and blocking the view of fans while sitting on the bench, he is listed on the roster as a freshman. Due to Fingleton’s back surgery in the summer of 2000, he successfully received a medical red-shirt from the NCAA. The 7-foot-5 Durham, England native may play a lot of minutes at the center position behind Lang. “When I’m playing I just want to be big in the middle, contest shots, get rebounds, and when I get the ball just do something with it to contribute,” Fingleton said. “I worked hard this summer and I’m trying to get better each day. I just hope that I can show coach that I can play productive minutes.”

These four men will need to pick up the slack in order for North Carolina to extend its consecutive tournament appearance streak to 28. Points have to be scored, rebounds have to be grabbed, assists have to be dished, and leadership has to be exhibited by Williams, Scott, Manuel and Fingleton. The other players, the coaches, and all of the Tar Heel fans are relying on this group of players to grow up quickly in order to keep the UNC tournament streak growing as well.


Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 27, 2017

April 27, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, the business of college sports, as well as that of sports media, takes center stage. We talk about the layoffs at ESPN, college basketball’s opening night, and Wichita State’s departure from the Missouri Valley Conference. We close with thoughts on a departed friend of the media business as well.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 11, 2017

April 11, 2017 by

In our first off-season edition, we look back on the season that just ended, including redemption for one team and a big development for a conference that has had more questions than success on the hardwood. We also look at players coming and going, as well as big coaching news on a day where there was a lot of it.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2017

April 4, 2017 by

We look back at Monday’s national championship game, which was not a thing of beauty but had plenty of drama. Along the way we share some post-game quotes from both coaches.

College Basketball Tonight – April 2, 2017

April 3, 2017 by

In our Final Four special edition, three head coaches join us to offer their insights on the Final Four, as well as their own programs.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about the national semifinal contests and then look ahead to an intriguing matchup for the national championship that is ahead of us on Monday night.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale preview

June 24, 2016 by

We look ahead to the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, held at a familiar location in Boston.

At the 2016 Boston Shootout, host BABC has a big day

June 8, 2016 by

Sunday was a big day for the host program at the 44th Boston Shootout