UNC's Bullock has opportunity to carry team
JAN 23, 2013 7:28a ET
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.