Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Thoughts from the McDonald's All-American Game
Two UNC recruits, G J.R. Smith (East team) and F Marvin Williams (West team) took part in the McDonald's All-American game on Wednesday. Williams never really got into the flow of the game (he finished with 3 points), while J.R. Smith was arguably as good as Dwight Howard (who'll probably be the first or second player taken in the June draft) in terms of making big-time plays (they ended up sharing the MVP award). Smith led all scorers with 25 points, was 5 for 10 from behind (way behind) the arc and had 4 nasty dunks.

This led to some speculation that Smith might now consider turning pro (but I think it was just that, speculation). Of course these types of performances must be taken in context -- and with the understanding that these guys are at an all-star game where a premium is placed on offense and defense is just an afterthought. Smith was also described on ESPN as having J.J. Redick range with Vince Carter hops (allegedly, Smith has a 44 inch vertical).

I'm sure Roy Williams watches these kind of games and cringes for a couple of reasons. As I mentioned, there is no defense and there are a lot of ill-advised shots. There also seem to be twice as many turnovers as assists, and one strong performance (and a misguided word) might tempt an player to take a shot at the NBA when college might be their best bet.

Hopefully none of the above will have a lasting effect on UNC's incoming class. In addition to Smith and Williams, UNC will also have point guard Quentin Thomas and perhaps (pending some legal problems) the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school basketball history, JamesOn Curry. The incoming freshman will add much needed depth to a very short bench and don't be surprised if Williams and Smith get a lot of playing time next year. If nothing else, Smith's presence should push Melvin Scott to work on his game and improve on his woeful assist-to-turnover ratio. The addition of Thomas should also take some of the pressure off Felton to carry this team.

If everyone's back, next year will be fun to watch.

A quick note on Livingston
My first thought after seeing Shaun Livingston, the 6'7" point guard slated to attend Duke (he scored 1 point), was that he looked really thin and there would be no way he would go pro. The commentators seem to believe that Livingston will base his decision on how well he plays in the all-star games. Apparently the pro scouts love this guy because he's tall with great vision and a great handle. The one knock on him (besides being skinny) is that he doesn't shoot very well. That said, I'm not sure that your all-star performance should be the determining factor on whether you go pro or not.

Here's a link to the East/West rosters for the game.