Scouting report gives Heels lesson in perception

Opponent's views offer insight

acarter@newsobserver.comJanuary 10, 2012 

— A team that played at North Carolina in December left a copy of its scouting report at the Smith Center. John Henson, the Tar Heels' junior forward, smiled late last week while he listened to one particular line the report included about him: "Hates it physical."

"For me to hate 'physical,' that would mean I'd have to get angry and get mad and (not) like it," said Henson, a 6-foot-11 forward. "And I don't hate physical. You know, I think it's something that's going to be the scouting report on me and Z for however long (we play). We're not the biggest, strongest, bruiser-type guys."

In referencing "Z," Henson was talking about teammate and the 7-foot senior forward Tyler Zeller. And indeed, the scouting report used the same line - "Hates it physical" - about Zeller, too.

A copy of the scouting report didn't include a team logo, so it's unclear which of the Tar Heels' December opponents prepared it. The News & Observer obtained a copy of the report, which provides some insight into how the opposition views the third-ranked Tar Heels.

In addition to challenging the physicality of Henson and Zeller, the scouting report labeled sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall as the Tar Heels' weakest defender among the starting five. About P.J. Hairston, a freshman known for his shooting ability, the report said: "Looking to shoot at all times. Doesn't guard."

Throughout the first two months of the season, the Tar Heels have stressed the need to improve defensively. Coach Roy Williams said Monday he has been pleased by Marshall's progress on defense.

"He's gotten better," Williams said. "He's a smart player ... so he doesn't try to get up on people chest-to-chest with them because he doesn't have that kind of speed and quickness. He tries to judge how close he can be and still stay in front of the basketball. And he's been doing a better job of that."

Williams said he has been especially pleased with Marshall's defensive improvement away from the basketball. Williams noted Larry Bird, not known for his quickness, became a good defensive player because of what he did when he wasn't guarding a man with the ball.

"When you're limited with your feet, and you're limited with speed and quickness, you've got to figure out a way to be effective defensively, or you are not going to play," Williams said. "And Kendall is getting better and better at doing that."

The scouting report described Marshall as a "very crafty" player and warned of his passing ability. The report also suggested players attempt to make sophomore forward Harrison Barnes "uncomfortable."

Easier said than done, apparently. North Carolina won all six home games in December, and the Tar Heels have a 27-game winning streak at the Smith Center. That streak is the longest in the history of the building.

Henson, meanwhile, said he wasn't bothered that an opposing team would believe he "hates it physical."

" 'Physical,' thankfully, isn't a big aspect of basketball," he said. "It's not football. You can be all right even if you're not as physical as other people."

Carter: 919-829-8944

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