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Sunday / November 18.
  • Carolina’s Strickland More Confident Entering Season

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    ELIZABETH, N.J. — Dexter Strickland has already won a championship in high school.

    Now he’s a member of a North Carolina team ranked No. 1 in the college basketball preseason and seeking an NCAA championship.

    “It feels good [to be ranked No. 1], and also it brings a little pressure,” Strickland said earlier this week during a run at St. Patrick. “But at the same time we need that to help us have motivation during the season. Everybody’s coming out for us, and everybody has us marked down on the calendar, but that’s a good thing for us.

    “We know what we have to do to get the job done. We have the the same tools coming back this season, so I think we’re going to be even better than last year.”

    A year ago, Carolina lost to Kentucky in the Elite 8 in Newark, and finished 27-10.

    The Heels will be the most experienced and loaded team at the start of the 2011-12 season.

    In addition to Strickland, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard who, along with Kyrie Irving and Michael Gilchrist, helped St. Pat’s win the 2009 New Jersey Tournament of Champions, Carolina returns several players who would’ve been first-round NBA picks.

    Harrison Barnes, a 6-8 sophomore forward, John Henson, a 6-10 junior forward, and Tyler Zeller, a 7-foot junior forward, all elected to remain on campus instead of going to the NBA last season.

    “I didn’t know ‘Z’ was going to come back,” Strickland said of Zeller. “I thought he was going to leave. Surprisingly he stayed, and thankfully he stayed. Him just being on the floor with us just gives us a better chance of winning.

    “I think everybody now knows their roles, and knows how to play together.”

    Carolina also brings in a strong recruiting class that features 6-9 forward James McAdoo and 6-5 freshman guard P.J. Hairston, as well as 6-9 New Jersey native Desmond Hubert.

    As for Strickland, he is back to being a full-time two guard after an experimental turn at the point as a frosh.

    “At the same time, knock on wood if Kendall [Marshall] gets hurt, then I’ll be able to move to the one like I did my first year,” said Strickland, who averaged 7.5 points and 3.1 rebounds last season.

    “I think my [attitude] this year is much different. I don’t think you can even compare just the confidence alone that I have and knowing what Coach [Roy] Williams wants.”

    Strickland has split time this summer between Chapel Hill, Florida and New Jersey.

    At Carolina, he worked out against pros Raymond Felton and Shammond Williams.

    “Just stayed in the gym every day,” he said. “I had summer classes so I had to get that done.”

    At St.Pat’s, Strickland went up against his old running buddy Irving, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. (See the video here.)

    “It’s great talent, it’s great talent,” Irving said before departing to watch Duke play exhibitions in China. “We’re just enjoying ourselves out here, that’s it.”

    As for Carolina, they will meet Michigan State on Veteran’s Day on the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that carried Osama bin Laden’s body to a burial at sea.

    “It’s gonna be crazy,” Strickland said. “It’s going to be a great experience, actually. I never actually played in an arena like that. For us just to be the first team to play there, hopefully we’ll make history. Hopefully, we’ll get the win, too.”

    Is Strickland worried at all about the boat shaking on the water and, in turn, messing up his stroke?

    “It wouldn’t throw my shot off but it will throw everybody else’s game off,” he cracked.

    “We’re just looking to go out there and have fun,” he added. “It’s our first game on there and it’s going to be a great experience for myself and the team.”

    (Photo courtesy NY Post)

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.