Heels leadership a work in progress

Are the Tar Heels being too polite on the floor?

Sophomore Joel James thinks so.

The 6-foot-10 center said, while they have stayed upbeat in the face of pending suspensions for P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, they’re taking it too far. Taking responsibility can be as important as encouragement.

“We’re a very enthusiastic group, we believe in each other,” James said. “I feel like sometimes we need to get on each other more, hold each other more accountable for our mistakes and what we do in practice and games.”

Point guard Marcus Paige and forward James Michael McAdoo are the team captains, but with two upperclassmen out, leadership is apparently in short supply during these early stages of the season.

Coach Roy Williams stripped McDonald, the lone scholarship senior, of that responsibility. He did the same to Hairston, who is a junior, after his troubled offseason.

Back on ACC media day, Williams said McDonald and Hairston handled it well and that they had to work to incrementally re-establish themselves as team leaders.

“It’s a role that I don’t take lightly, they’ve lost some confidence by some actions,” Williams said. “With Joel and Kennedy (Meeks) in particular I tell them, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it was worked on every day.’ If you lose some opportunities in leadership, it’s not regained in a day but it’s worked on every day.”

Paige and McAdoo have to work on it every day too, especially while the pair is learning second positions. It could be harder for them to instruct others while they’re still trying to figure things out themselves. Paige and McAdoo are still adjusting to playing shooting guard and small forward in some lineups with Hairston and McDonald out of the rotation.

McAdoo is still growing into the leadership role. When he does speak up, he believes he has enough credibility that his teammates listen.

“Definitely I want what is best for the team so when guys are messing up it looks a lot better coming from me than coming from Brice (Johnson) or somebody, just because I’ve been here a long time,” McAdoo said.

Ultimately, Williams believes Paige can also be that vocal leader, especially when he’s in a lineup where he’s back playing point guard.

“I just think he’s truly a fantastic point guard who understands the game, is a coach out there on the floor, knows where everybody is supposed to be and is a true leader out there,” Williams said.