UNC’s Bullock has opportunity to carry team

Reggie Bullock’s game is trending up.

The junior small forward
for North Carolina is playing the best basketball of his career and
there’s still plenty of room before his ceiling even enters into the
picture.

Bullock’s most recent sample was in last Saturday’s
62-52 victory over Maryland: He finished with a career-high 24 points,
which included 21 before halftime. In fact, the 6-foot-7 native of
Kinston, N.C., outscored the Terrapins all by himself by a point in the
first half.

The first-half eruption gave hard-to-please Maryland
coach Mark Turgeon another opportunity to take a typical swipe at his
team, though this was justified, but only because of Bullock’s
effectiveness.

“We let Reggie get going early, acted like we didn’t even know he was out there a couple of times,” Turgeon said.

Bullock took the game in stride. He doesn’t appear comfortable making it about him, so don’t expect much gloating.

“We
have young guys but me and Mac (forward James Michael McAdoo) played a
lot of minutes for coach Williams last year, so we know how he wants
thing to be run,” Bullock said. “So we tell the younger guys that it’s
up to them to believe us and believe in the talent they have and go out
there and do the things that can do.”

McAdoo did his part versus
the Terrapins, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, good for his
fifth double-double of the season. But Bullock’s start — scoring UNC’s
first eight points — was enormous in infusing this temperamental team
that carried a 22-point lead the locker at the intermission.

It
served as North Carolina’s second-consecutive passionate start, which is
a major step forward for this developing team. If the veterans and
leaders, of which Bullock has recently established himself, raise their
games and remain there, the Tar Heels (12-5, 2-2 ACC) could be a factor
in the ACC.

Bullock is doing his part in his last six games.
He’s averaging 17.3 points and grabbing seven rebounds in that stretch,
and has converted 19-of-39 3-point attempts (48.7 percent) during that
stretch.

With such long arms, Bullock’s length makes him
especially difficult to defend on the perimeter. Then, consider his
ability to catch the ball, square to the basket and let it fly in one
smooth, quick motion. That’s what truly makes him so lethal. When you
watch him catch, square and shoot it’s easy to envision years of working
hard in varying conditions when few people or no one is watching.
Shooters aren’t born, they are made.

“I’ve worked on it in every
kind of condition,” Bullock said about his jump shot. “Rain, ice, real
hot in gyms with no air conditioning in the summer, after midnight. It’s
what you have to do to be great.”

But the most intriguing thing
about Bullock is the attention he pays to every other aspect of the
game, including its nuances. Coming off a screen properly or rotating to
pick up someone on defense are just as important to him as knocking
down a 3 from the wing.

“The little things are important to him
because he wants to win so badly,” senior guard Dexter Strickland said.
“That also makes playing with Reggie easy.”

Bullock and the Tar
Heels aren’t anywhere near where their personnel suggests they should be
as a team. Hosting Georgia Tech on Wednesday night and visiting rival
N.C. State on Saturday night are opportunities to continue layering the
recent positives. That’s growth.

It won’t be easy, because UNC
still lacks a true post game, but with Bullock leading the way and
players such as McAdoo following as examples for the younger Heels, this
team can come out on the other end of the season having achieved
something.