In their first meeting, Team McGladrey was dropped by Team Stackhouse in a hard fought matchup that pinned the future Wolfpack players against the future of UNC basketball. Ryan Harrow, Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie and Tracy Smith played well, but costly turnovers and poor shot selection plagued them as Harrison Barnes clutch shooting coupled with Reggie Bullock’s career day was simply too much. This Tuesday they matched up once again with McGladrey focused on getting their revenge.
Harrow, Brown, Leslie and 2012 commit Joseph Uchebo took the floor looking prepared, hungry and on a mission to prove themselves. The guards turned up the defensive intensity from the get-go, forcing poor passes and miscues that turned into fast breaks and rim rattling dunks. The length, athleticism, focus and intensity was the perfect storm as they jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead. The run showcased just how good this group of freshman could be. Harrow and Brown were disrupting the Team Stackhouse flow, frustrating their guards and forcing turnover after turnover. Inside it was the brut strength of Joseph Uchebo and the length of CJ Leslie that took command of the paint. For the first 7 minutes it was utter domination.
…And that’s when things went south.
Harrison Barnes connected on a 3 ball, and PJ Hairston added two more of his own to bring Stackhouse right back into the game. The second quarter was dominated the future UNC wing players as they finished on the break and knocked down open look after open look. The commanding run put McGladrey back on their heels and caused them to get away from their game plan. There’s no doubt that fatigue factored in, but the pace of the game surely shifted to Team Stackhouse. At the half McGladrey trailed 34-33.
So what went wrong in the second quarter? Well, it was a combination of things. This team showed that when clicking, they can make impressive, demoralizing runs. They also showed that they aren’t quite there yet in terms of consistency and maturity. Ryan Harrow showed poise throughout and there is no doubt that he is going to be the guy with the ball in his hands when the going gets tough. Harrow’s even keel demeanor and ability to stay calm when the opposition makes runs will be key for the Wolfpack. Harrow is the one player that seemed to understand the pace his team was comfortable with and attempted to set that pace. Brown and Leslie, while still able to make plays, seemed rushed, flustered and aching to force the issue. This led to numerous turnovers and run-outs for Team Stackhouse.
Throughout the season it will be important to remember that these kids are only freshman and they’re still learning the ropes. All three were dominant in high school and could take it to the hoop whenever they wanted. It’s a different ball game now. Patience, exploiting matchups and situational basketball will all be things that Sidney Lowe will work on before this team takes the floor in November.
One very surprising bright spot was the play of rising senior (2011) and Wolfpack commit, Joseph Uchebo. The skill level of the 6’10 center was never questioned, however many did not know if he had the polish to be able to compete ACC. That question was answered on Tuesday as Uchebo challenged UNC forward John Henson in a physical battle, never backing down and besting Henson on numerous occasions. Uchebo showed great understanding of spacing and positioning while also showing off his physicality. There was no doubt about it that John Henson was not comfortable with the intensity and strength of Uchebo, who consistently bodied up the frail forward. Uchebo rebounded well, found the open man when doubled, and ran the pick and roll with ease. All of which Sidney Lowe will be very pleased with.
As the second half opened the intensity level and pace were about even. McGladrey would make a run, followed by a Stackhouse run. This continued into the fourth quarter when a string of poor decisions led to a 8 point Stackhouse lead that ended up being insurmountable in the final minutes.
CJ Leslie played well in spurts. There were times that he overmatched last years #1 prospect, Harrison Barnes, but there were times that Barnes took it to Leslie as well. This will be a great matchup when State meets Carolina this coming season. The length of Leslie definitely takes a lot away from Barnes, but his constant motor will be something every team will need to note. Taking a play off isn’t an option when guarding him. The same goes for Leslie. His extreme athleticism and length makes him a spirit-breaking dunk waiting to happen. The skills are there and he has it all. The only thing Lowe will need to teach Leslie is how to deal with the mental aspect when faced with adversity. Too many times after Barnes scored on CJ, he would feel the need to come down and return the favor. While he was able to at times, he also tended to force issue, taking his team out of their rhythm. There should, however, be no worries here. None of these kids has been taught by a college level coach and they all have the capacity to learn and improve before the season hits.