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.