Lucas: Media Day Storylines

Lucas: Media Day Storylines

By Adam Lucas

1. This Joel James situation is one of the more interesting Carolina big man storylines since Brad Daugherty arrived in Chapel Hill as a raw 16-year-old. By now, you know the basics on James: he's big, he's powerful, and he's still a relative newcomer to basketball. 

But there's something new about James this season: he has expectations. Or rather, there have been expectations placed upon him. Nine of his fifteen teammates recently named the big man as the player most likely to surprise in 2014. And James seemed truly buoyed by a simple conversation with Roy Williams in which the head coach told him, essentially, that it was time to get better. 

"At the end of the year Coach pulled me aside and we had a conversation about what he expects from me and where he sees me going in the years to come," James said. "That was the starting point of, 'OK, Joel, now you have to develop. This is all you now.' So I took it upon myself to stay here this summer and work on my craft. I feel like I've accomplished some things but I still have so much to do."

James could get away with just being "the big guy" in high school. Last year he was the overwhelmed freshman. Now he's being called a possible starter. It will be fascinating to see how he responds.

2. Predictably, a healthy portion of the Roy Williams portion of media day was devoted to P.J. Hairston. The statement, which you can read in its entirety here, announced that the junior would be back practicing with the team tomorrow. But the head coach said several times that he didn'† know what repercussions Hairston migh† face in †erms of number of games missed.

Williams did, though, sound proud of the way Hairston has handled the aftermath of his poor decision-making. "P.J. has done more conditioning this preseason than any player I've ever had. He's done more than three times more than any I've ever had," Williams said. "I've told P.J. he cannot be a leader...He is in a position with Leslie (McDonald) being the only senior, and the junior class has always shared in those leadership responsibilities. I've told P.J. he has none of those." 

3. So then, what are the immediate ramifications of Hairston's situation for the 2013-14 Tar Heels? Williams said it will affect the way the team practices beginning with session number one on Friday afternoon and extending through the preseason. "I don't know what I'm going to do with P.J. at the end," Williams said. "One of the things we're going to do early is we're going to do more freelance. We're going to play two point guards in the lineup or three big guys in the lineup. We're going to focus on freelance even more because at this moment, I don't know who we'll have in the first game, second game, or third game."

4. The most surprising thing heard at media day: Marcus Paige is a big Michael Jackson fan. Like, really big. In his GoHeels chat on Thursday afternoon, Paige mentioned that the teammate he spends the most time with is Brice Johnson (the two live together).

So it seemed only natural to ask Johnson what most people don't know about Paige. His answer: "He really, really loves Michael Jackson. You'll be riding along in the car and all of a sudden he's playing a Michael Jackson song. He's one of the biggest Michael Jackson fans you have ever seen. He tries to dance like him, too. He does the moonwalk, he does the Thriller stuff, he does all of it. He has it down to a science."

It goes without saying that this has been forwarded to the proper Late Night with Roy Williams (it's Oct. 25 this year, by the way) authorities. This one's for you, Marcus:

5. J.P. Tokoto is probably always going to be known for his dunking. That's what happens when you can jump over people. But watching him shoot on multiple occasions in the last couple of weeks, his shot looks noticeably better than it did as a freshman

Tokoto has never had to work on his shooting mechanics before--as a high schooler, why worry about his elbow when he could just leap over his defender? But he spent significant time on it this summer.

"Mechanically, I've got my elbow in," he said. "And I'm holding my follow through. A lot of times I would pull it really quick. Both of those things have helped a lot, and the rotation looks a lot better."

A better shot doesn't mean Tokoto will suddenly transform into a three-point bomber. Tokoto wants to use the better mechanics to be a better midrange player, where he thinks his most effective spot on the floor might be.

"Looking at tape from last year, I had the midrange jump shot open, but so many times I was afraid to shoot it," he said. "This year, if I have that shot, I'm going to take it."

This isn't just random offseason chatter. The right people have noticed Tokoto's progress.

"Coach Williams has pulled me aside," Tokoto said. "He told me he's seen a lot of improvement."

Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist and the editor of CAROLINA.

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