Season Analysis: Joel James
Season stats: 1.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg
Per-40 minute stats: 9.8 P, 10.2 R
Season in a sentence: Joel James showed the size and demeanor to play in the ACC, but needs to develop an instinctive go-to post move and have the game slow down.
Season highlights: James had two of his best games in the first two Tar Heel contests of the season-he debuted with six points and four rebounds against Gardner-Webb, then followed that with a season-best 11 points to go with eight rebounds against Florida Atlantic. By the time he corralled nine rebounds at Long Beach State in the season's third game, James looked like a rotation fixture.
Like fellow freshman Brice Johnson, James was one of the few Tar Heels who looked comfortable in the loss at NC State, as he made four of five field goal attempts and scored eight points. He recorded his ACC high of five rebounds in a home win over Wake Forest.
James had one of the quirkiest plays of the year, as his baseline pass against FSU somehow ended up in the basket, which amazed even Marv Albert:
James' personality makes him an ideal teammate, and he even did a credible Roy Williams impression in the UNC basketball version of the Harlem Shake:
Against the ACC: Here's a number you might not have guessed: James' per-40 minutes scoring actually went up (to 10.4) against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. But the problem is that the sample size is so small that it's hard to really draw any conclusions.
The big man was on the fringe of the rotation until a concussion sidelined him for a three-game stretch that began at Duke. Then, by the time he came back at Clemson, the Tar Heels were firmly established in their smaller lineup, and he played just 10 minutes in the final five regular season games, including a pair of DNPs that were not concussion-related.
Postseason: The Tar Heels shortened the rotation by the time the postseason arrived, and James was mostly on the outside of it. He played a combined 11 minutes in the ACC Tournament, with his best effort probably coming against Maryland, when he scored a basket and grabbed a pair of rebounds in four minutes. He played just one minute in the two NCAA Tournament games.
Areas of improvement: Remember that James is a relative latecomer to the game of basketball. For that reason, he's still developing some of the instincts that come more naturally to his teammates. There were times during his freshman season you could see him thinking about what to do next. The more exposure he gets to high-level college basketball, the more adept he'll be at knowing immediately what the right move for the situation should be.
James should eventually be a solid defensive post presence simply because of his bulk. Once he learns how to use that bulk to his advantage-including before his man ever receives the ball-he'll be a much tougher defender than he was as a freshman.
With his size, James could become a bigger force on the offensive boards. Just six of his 20 rebounds against ACC teams were offensive.
Season stats: 3.1: The average number of minutes James played per game after the switch to the smaller lineup. He averaged 11.1 minutes before the change.
5.5: James' per-40 rebounding average against NCAA Tournament teams, a figure that must increase if he's to find a permanent place in the rotation.
0: The combined number of turnovers he committed in his final six games, after committing five turnovers in his three previous games.
Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist.