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The Daily Tar Heel

James makes his case

Freshman big man Joel James started the second half for UNC

Just like in the exhibition game with Shaw, North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams went with sophomore Desmond Hubert to start in the post opposite James Michael McAdoo.

But when the Tar Heels came out in the second half to protect a 38-26 lead it was freshman Joel James on the block instead.

“It was definitely exciting – I’m not going to lie – (as a) freshman starting the second half,” James said. “I just tried to go out there and play basketball.”

The 6-foot-10 freshman added a bucket and a rebound to his first half performance giving him six points on the night and four rebounds. He was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, including a soft jumper from ten feet out.

He did, however, rack up four fouls in his 14 minutes.

“We started him in the second half but I think he can do some good things,” Williams said. “He’s got to stay out of foul trouble – making silly little fouls. I’m looking down there, 3-for-3, that’s pretty good. You can tie it, but you can’t beat it. But four fouls, you have to make better decisions on that.”

James knows that as the biggest player on the court for the Tar Heels that any contact he makes can look like a foul. So his focus moving forward is to be more patient on defense and not leaving his feet.

“Coach pulled me aside and told me I’m a big player so obviously when I jump up in the air and swipe down it looks like it’s going to be a foul,” James said. “You just have to play to the refs and be smart.”

James added with a smile that he tries to be nice to the officials on the floor and butter them up. Apparently, that wasn’t enough to keep him out of foul trouble. But regardless of the whistles he drew, James still made a strong case for himself to take Hubert’s starting spot.

Of the ten players that played double-digit minutes in the 76-59 win against Gardner-Webb, Hubert was the only one who didn’t record a single point. Hubert played 13 minutes in the game and missed both his field goal attempts but did haul in four rebounds including two on offense.

Williams said Thursday that his starting lineup was something that he would be open to change as the non-conference schedule played out. As for Sunday’s game with Florida Atlantic, Williams didn’t indicate whether or not James had played his way into that role.

Williams hinted Friday night after the win that there are plenty of minutes to go around.

“We’re going to play all those guys,” he said.

Starter or not, James has now recorded his first official minutes in a Tar Heel uniform and really tried to make the most out of his debut.

“It was a great learning experience,” James said. “Coach has been preaching, this is it – it counts now. So I’d say it was a good opening game. Nice game to get out feet wet but there’s obviously lots of improvements to be made.”

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