- C.L. Brown, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is the fourth installment of a position-by-position look at the Tar Heels.
Power forward should be a position of strength for Carolina this season. Junior James Michael McAdoo returns after starting every game last season. Sophomore Brice Johnson gained much-needed strength to his thin frame and will be able to hold his own. Freshman Isaiah Hicks adds a touch of athleticism and is arguably better than both McAdoo and Johnson at scoring around the basket. Junior Jackson Simmons has the experience and trust to contribute without trying to play outside of his skill set.
The Heels aren't as deep or as talented at any other position. That might be part of the reason why coach Roy Williams expects them to rebound better. Last season the Heels outrebounded opponents by an average of only 1.6 per game. That was by far the lowest margin in the Roy Williams era.
This group shouldn't have that problem, and the newcomer Hicks could be a big reason why.
"They always say rebounding is one skill that translates from level to level," sophomore guard Marcus Paige said. "I've seen it so far. He can go up and get a lot of balls that guys aren't able to get."
McAdoo led the team in rebounding last season at 7.3 per game. His average collapsed almost a full rebound per game the last quarter of the season, when he found himself playing against centers in the Heels' four guard lineup.
Williams expects McAdoo will thrive playing in a lineup with a center again.
"The only time he's had a five-man in there to play the post defense and post up was his freshman year, those few games after John (Henson) was out and he played with Tyler Zeller," Williams said. "Those were pretty doggone good times. It's been a shame that he hasn't had that low-post presence to play with and enable him to do some other things."
Williams will have all kinds of versatility at power forward thanks to each player having a different niche. Johnson could be the best defender of the four due to his ability to block shots.
"He has the quick bounce to be able to block some shots, and I think he's shown some of that in practice," Williams said. "And hopefully he'll show it in games too."
Simmons, a former walk-on, proved himself at Florida State with a career-high eight points including the game-winning basket.
"He adds a great deal to our team," Williams said. "Last year he was very significant in a couple of games, and I think he'll be very significant in more games this year."
James Michael McAdoo 6-9, 230, Jr., 14.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 44.5 FG%
Brice Johnson 6-9, 210, So., 5.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 51.1 FG%
Isaiah Hicks 6-8, 220, Fr., n/a
Jackson Simmons 6-7, 225, Jr., 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 65.8 FG%