North Carolina Tar Heels junior J.P. Tokoto, whose effortless athleticism in the open court has often drawn comparisons to Vince Carter, eyed freshman Joel Berry, the only defender separating him from the rim on a fast break. It was just a meaningless basket in a long line of summer pickup games, but Tokoto has been known to embarrass defenders, thanks to his hang time. Berry was well aware of this when he went up to contest the shot. “I’m thinking, ‘This little freshman, I’m just going to finish over the top,' " Tokoto said. “The next thing I know, I’m catching like a forearm to my chest and he’s up in the air with me.” Berry served notice. A new breed has arrived in Chapel Hill. They're not backing down, even during an insignificant pickup game. “It was just a shock,” said Tokoto, who used his status as an upperclassman to call a foul, even though he admitted it probably wasn’t one. It’s kind of hard to build a reputation for being tough as a team with all those All-Americans wearing baby blue. The Tar Heels have long been perceived as leaning toward finesse well before Roy Williams' tenure began. But Carolina’s freshman class of Berry, Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson could alter that this season. The trio arrived on campus with the kind of hunger -- better yet, heart -- that has been missing in Chapel Hill for some time. When’s the last time a Carolina team was defined by its toughness? The 2009 national championship team? Maybe, but more often than not, the teams were defined by players who played like a bunch of nice guys who didn't have a lot of fight.
Freshmen bring toughness to Tar Heels
ESPN | Jul 24