Exhibition Coverage: Tar Heel Freshmen Dazzle

Exhibition Coverage: Tar Heel Freshmen Dazzle
Nov 02, 2006, 04:28 am
You will have to forgive me for getting a little riled up over an exhibition pounding that felt more like a JV-Varsity scrimmage than any sort of real competition, but I think I speak for many hoops fanatics when I say that it has been a long freakin' offseason. The night was packed full of elite prospects donning their college Uni's for the first time, but the feature event had to be the debut of North Carolina's elite freshman trio. Let me tell you, Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellingon, and Brandan Wright did anything but disappoint.

Numerous other other big time pro prospects maid their debut as well, most notably Lousville's Derrick Caracter, Syracuse's Paul Harris, Hasheem Thabeet at Connecticut, and Ohio State's Daequan Cook. Maryland, Michigan State, Louisville had to fight to avoid embarrassing exhibition losses, while Penn State suffered a huge blow when emerging star Geary Claxton went down with a broken hand.

While the outcome of the game was never in doubt, North Carolina's 110-79 drubbing Wednesday night drubbing of St Augustine's marked the beginning of an exciting new era in botht Tar Heel and NCAA basketball. Yes, it appears that nearly every returnee has developed specific facets of his game over the offseason. Tyler Hansbrough looks more comfortable on the perimeter, and that reverse magnetic affect that seemed to take hold of every defender that attempted to body him up a season ago is very clearly still in play. Marcus Ginyard is more aggressive and more toned. Reyshawn Terry appears to have polished up his perimeter game a bit and put in a new level of effort on the defensive end. But this set of eyes was largely focused on the three freshmen.

PG Tywon Lawson - There had been some speculation that Lawson might not be ready for the starting job just yet. Write that down on a piece of paper, crumple it up, and throw it in the trash can. There is no doubt in my mind that Tywon Lawson is a starter at any program in the country, no matter who the returnees are. The comparisons to Raymond Felton are a good starting point - remember those days of Felton single-handedly destroying teams that attempted to pressure him, or those fast break dunks off of made shots? These happy times are about to return in Chapel Hill. My impression is that Lawson is slightly smaller and slightly thicker than his ideological predecessor, but also much more dangerous off the dribble. Lawson is a true creator in every sense of the word, making something positive happen nearly every time he touched the ball and getting into the lane against this overmatched competition without breaking a sweat. His inhuman reaction time and change of direction ability can only be described as Felton-esque. There have been some questioning Lawson's decision making ability, but I saw none of that tonight. Just a constant threat to beat the opposition with the pass or the drive at any moment. Lawson doesn't have an attacker's mentality on the defensive end just yet, but the potential for lock-down ball pressure is off the charts in Lawson with his running back-type frame. It is impossible to tell how a player will react when the really bright lights come on, but if there was ever a freshman capable of making First Team All-ACC, it would be Tywon Lawson. At this point think of an amped up Kyle Lowry, with even better point guard skills.

PF Brandan Wright - Wright played with the first unit from the opening tap, and immediately showed everybody why he was considered a likely lottery pick if not for the age limit. Wright led all scorers with 19 points, including 10 of North Carolina's first 13 points, 8 of which came on dunks. Wright runs the floor like a guard, and possesses both excellent hands and body control. The highlight of the night may have been a first half windmill alleyoop slam from Marcus Ginyard, the ease of which immediately brought to mind Tyrus Thomas. Wright is certainly on the skinny side, and this might give Roy Williams an extra year or two with this truly spectacular forward prospect. His lack of strength is going to hurt him when attempting to power to the rim against bigger ACC defenders, but he has soft touch on his mid-post back to the basket moves. With his long arms and high release point, his go-to spin move into the lane is very tough to alter if he is able to gain good initial position. Wright is definitely a power forward all the way, but is very comfortable handling the ball in the open court or on the perimeter. As his game develops, expect him to emerge as an elite face-up scorer. Wright appears to be the starter at PF, and his sleek package of skill and athleticism should be the perfect complement to the pure power of Tyler Hansbrough.

SG Wayne Ellington - Ellington was the least visible of the North Carolina burger boys tonight, but absolutely made his presence felt at times. At the moment he is deferring to the veterans in the Tar Heel backcourt, and isn't as involved as somebody with Ellington's ability probably should be. Nonetheless, the NBA talent level is simply undeniable. His jumper is makes-you-want-to-cry beautiful - remarkably quick, impressive elevation, consistent, and dangerous from just about every angle. Ellington isn't an elite athlete, but has a quick first step and has a great feel as a slasher. His ballhandling is something that will emerge over time, but it is easy to see the 6'5 elite scorer eventually playing some combo guard. With all the numbers and experience at the wing it could Wayne Ellington a bit longer to emerge, but at the same time he is talented to the point where it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see him lead the team in scoring. Just like Lawson and Wright, Ellington is a likely lottery pick at some point in the next three years.

Special mention must be given to fellow freshman Alex Stepheson, who might be buried on the depth chart this year but could eventually emerge as Williams' feature post player. Stepheson is the exact opposite of the paper-thin Wright when it comes to physical development - all it takes is one look to realize how good he could be down the road. He might already be thicker than the ACC's resident banger, junior Ra'Sean Dickey. He still tends to rush things in the post a bit, but the basics for an effective offensive game are already in place. As he gets more court time, Stepheson's NBA stock is only going to rise.

Numerous other exhibitions took place tonight. This list mentions the more significant ones, with starting lineups listed whenever possible.

Maryland 79, California (PA) 78

Greivis Vasquez DNP; Landon Millbourne 14 pts; Eric Hayes 9 ast

Florida State 90, Spring Hill 72

Jason Rich 17 points; Al Thornton 16 points; Tony Douglas 11 points

Clemson 99, Lithuania Basketball Academy 50

Starting Lineup: Vernon Hamilton, Cliff Hammonds, Sam Perry, Trevor Booker, James Mays

Mays 19 points, 6 reb; Hamilton 16 poins; Booker 6 points, 7 reb, 3 blk

Connecticut 75, AIC 59

Starting Lineup: AJ Price, Craig Austrie, Marcus Johnson, Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet

Price 17 points; Thabeet 11 points, 8 reb, 7 blk; Doug Wiggins 9 points 4 as in 25 mins

Syracuse 92, Bryant 86

Starting Lineup: Josh Wright, Eric Devendorf, Terrence Roberts, Demetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins

Devendorf 30 points; Nichols 21 points; Roberts 16 points; Paul Harris 8 points in 21 minutes

Pittsburgh 103, Carnegie Mellon 45

Starting Lineup: Ronald Ramon, Antonio Graves, Mike Cook, Levon Kendall, Aaron Gray
Gray 12 points 15 reb; Graves 17 points; Cook 16 points; Sam Young 14 points in 21 mins; Tyrell Biggs 11 points 14 reb in 21 mins

DePaul 89, St Ambrose 73
Wilson Chandler 28 points

Louisville 94, Georgetown (KY) 92

Staring Lineup: Edgar Sosa, Andre McGee, Terrence Williams, Juan Palacios, Terrance Farley – David Padgett DNP, Brandon Jenkins DNP

Derrick Caracter 25 pts, 11 reb in 25 min; Jerry Smith 9 pts, 3 stl in 27 mins; Edgar Sosa 15 pts; Earl Clark 6 pts in 7 min

Notre Dame 79, Rockhurst 44

Starting Lineup: Kyle McAlarney, Russell Carter, Collin Falls, Rob Kurz, Luke Zeller
Luke Harangrody 17 points in 21 minutes; Falls 15 points

Ohio State 80, Finlanday 55

Ron Lewis 17 points; Mike Conley 7 assists

Michigan State 61, Grand Valley State 57

Starting Lineup: Drew Neitzel, Travis Walton, Maurice Joseph, Drew Naymick, Goran Suton

Drew Neitzel 27 points; Goran Suton 16 points 8 reb; Raymar Morgan DNP

Illinois 83, Lewis 56

Starting Lineup: Chester Frazier, Jamar Smith, Calvin Brock, Warren Carter, Shawn Pruitt

Brian Carlwell, 7 points in 11 min; Carter, 13 points; Frazier, 10 points 6 ast

Penn State 71, Edinboro 53

Starting Lineup: Ben Luber, David Jackson, Geary Claxon, Jamelle Cornley, Milos Bogetic

Cornley 10 points; Claxton breaks hand

Tennessee 126, Lemoyne-Owen 66

Starting Lineup: Marques Johnson, Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith, Dane Bradshaw, Duke Crews

Smith 22 points; Johnson 7 points 4 assists; Crews 12 points; Wayne Chism 17 points, 6 reb

Arkansas 72, Xavier-New Orleans 49
Starting Lineup: Gary Ervin, Patrick Beverley, Sonny Weems, Charles Thomas, Steven Hill

Oregon 93, Lewis & Clark 55

Starting Lineup: Aaron Brooks, Adrian Stelly, Bryce Taylor, Champ Oguchi, Maary Luenen

Luenen 16 points 20 rebounds; Brooks 21 poins 9 assists; Tajuan Porter 29 points in 33 minutes; Malik Hairston DNP

Gonzaga 89, Augustana 53

Starting Lineup: Derek Raivio, Jeremy
Pargo, David Pendergraft, Sean Mallon, Josh Heytvelt

Heytvelt 23 points; Ravio 16 points

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