2013 Tar Heel Review…2014, Looking Forward
It was an exciting year for North Carolina and not for all the right reasons. While the highs were high, the lows kept on coming. From PJ Hairston, to the return of Will Graves, the Tar Heels just couldn’t shake negative press in 2013. Yet, there were a lot of things to celebrate as well. Here’s a look at some of the best, and worst, moments of last year, and what to expect in the year to come.
Some of the Best Moments
1) It was a banner year for the UNC Women’s Lacrosse program as the team captured the program’s first NCAA title in a win against Northwestern in February.
2) While still searching for a championship, the Diamond Heels capped off an incredible season with yet another College World Series appearance, an ACC Championship and a thrilling victory against rival NC State in the longest game in ACC Tournament history (a 2-1 win in 18 innings).
3) The emergence of young players such as NCAA record holder return man Ryan Switzer, a Belk Bowl Championship and a comeback from a 1-5 record, paint a bright future for the Tar Heels football program. Larry Fedora must replace multiple members of his staff in a crucial off season.
…And the Worst
1) The PJ Hairston saga joined the ranks of Butch Davis, the football scandal and the academic scandal as one of the worst moments in North Carolina Athletics history. Without their leading scorer, the 2013-2014 Tar Heel basketball team has struggled to be consistent, beating ranked Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky, and losing to unranked Belmont, UAB and Texas. What makes this story so devastating though, is the wasted potential on Hairston’s part. His continual bad decision making has jeopardized his future draft position and potentially significantly lowered his earning potential if he can’t shake the “troublemaker” label.
2) Will Graves was kicked off the North Carolina Men’s Basketball team in October of 2010 for “failure to comply with team rules,” according to a statement by head coach Roy Williams. It was widely speculated that his dismissal was related to drug use, although that was never confirmed by media sources. Since then, Graves has bounced around playing basketball overseas, until he recently returned to Carolina to finish his degree. While in Chapel Hill, Graves was given a part-time video coordinator position with the team and was allowed to stay in a house owned by Williams (yes, he paid rent). Unfortunately, he consented to a search of the house when a meter-reader complained of irregularities, and authorities found marijuana and drug paraphernalia present. While Graves should be commended for completing his degree, it was ironic, and damaging, for an old story like this to resurface at such a bad time for the school. Coach Williams is a kind and generous man, perhaps to a fault, but may have given Graves too many chances.
3) Athletic scandals are damaging, but none is quite as bad as ANYTHING related to academics. The story of Professor Julius Nyang’oro and the Carolina African American Studies Department is possibly the worst story of the three. Nyang’oro was back in the news this year for being indicted with felony obtaining property by false pretenses for payment he received for fraudulent classes. The center of the worst prong of the Butch Davis era, Nyang’oro is charged with leading a department where no show classes were common, grades were changed, signatures were forged and athletes were always on the roll. It will be years before the nation’s oldest public university, and a commonly viewed top 5 (public) school can regain its sterling reputation.
2014, Looking Forward
If the Tar Heels can put 2013 behind them, they have a lot to look forward to in the new year. Here are some of the highlights of what to expect as the Heels move into 2014.
Men’s Basketball- With a fourth ranked recruiting class coming in next year, and the eligibility issues of PJ Hairston (dismissed) and Leslie McDonald behind them, the team can confidently enter conference play knowing the pieces that they have. While the Heels are one of the most unpredictable teams in the nation, their ceiling is high- especially with the long expected emergence of James Michael McAdoo (14.7ppg, 5.9rpg) and the strong play of sophomores Marcus Paige (18.4ppg, 4apg), Brice Johnson (11.4ppg, 6.7rpg) and JP Tokoto (10.2ppg, 5.5rpg, 1.5spg). The return of McDonald (12.3ppg, .429 3P%) has been a huge boost for the team.
Women’s Basketball- Despite adversity (Coach Sylvia Hatchell’s current battle with leukemia), the Tar Heel women’s team sits at #10 in the AP Top 25 with an 11-2 record. The team has one more tune up against James Madison before conference play begins, and while things won’t be getting any easier (two matchups against current #3 Duke are ahead, as well as games against #8 Maryland, #21 Florida State, #2 Notre Dame and #20 Syracuse) confidence is high for this talented team. Five-star point guard Jamie Cherry is the only current member of the 2014 Tar Heel recruiting class, but the team currently has no scholarship seniors and is not projected to lose anyone in the off-season.
Baseball (Diamond Heels)- Coach Mike Fox is bringing in another impressive class next year to build on the success of his team’s 2013 College World Series campaign. The Tar Heels have qualified for the CWS six times in the last eight years and don’t appear to be stopping anytime soon.
Football- While Coach Larry Fedora has to replace multiple members of his staff, including former offensive coordinator Blake Anderson (now the head coach at SEC coach factory Arkansas State), his top 20 recruiting class and an exciting spring quarterback battle (Marquise Williams vs. 2013 ESPN 300 QB Mitch Trubisky) leave a lot to look forward to in the next year. The emergence of return man Ryan Switzer, the run game with TJ Logan and continued defense improvement make the Heels a team to watch in the always unpredictable ACC Coastal Division.
Other Sports- Great things can always be expected from North Carolina’s Men’s and Women’s soccer teams, as well as both lacrosse teams and the field hockey team. With veteran coaches and consistently highly-rated recruiting classes coming in, expect nothing different this year.
While 2013 had its challenges, it was a great year, as always, for Tar Heel sports. It’s impossible to predict how each team will do and how every season will end, but one thing can be certain- expect to see Carolina at one or more NCAA Championship. The Tar Heels are ninth all-time, with 40 NCAA Division 1 team national championships, and 51 individual national championships.