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College Basketball

Carolina carry-over

Tar Heels align offense without last season's punch

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Posted: Monday October 19, 1998 05:14 PM

  Filling a void: Cota, who averaged 8.1 points a game last season, is the Tar Heels' leading returning scorer Craig Jones/Allsport

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (AP) -- The scene was familiar last season -- Ed Cota or Ademola Okulaja with the ball on the perimeter, the defense inching its way back into the lane with North Carolina fans pleading for the pair to "Shoot! Shoot!"

Expect both to let it fly this season.

With the losses of NBA lottery picks Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, and shooting guard Shammond Williams, it's likely that Cota and Okulaja will be asked by coach Bill Guthridge to pick up their scoring.

"We did lose a lot," Guthridge understated Sunday during preseason media day. "One of the problems with every team when you have players back is their roles change from year to year, depending on who is on the team.

"I thought Ed and Ademola played their roles great last year, and their roles may change somewhat this year. That will take place through the course of practice. We'll just have to see how that all evolves."

Cota, like most North Carolina point guards in the past, has been asked to be more of a floor general than a scorer, but he did average 31 points one season in high school.

It is not common, but point guards have been asked to score at North Carolina before, all-time scoring leader Phil Ford and Kenny Smith being the two most prominent in the past 25 years.

"I've always been a team player and they didn't need me to score," Cota said, referring to his first two seasons with the Tar Heels. "It wasn't really a problem. That's why I can't wait until we start [this season], to just be able to get the ball back after I make a couple of passes will be nice."

Jamison, Carter, Williams and Makhtar Ndiaye accounted for 73 percent of North Carolina's points last season en route to a second straight Final Four and a 34-4 record. Cota and Okulaja combined for just 16.1 points a game, and neither shot better than 50 percent from the field.

Okulaja, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, struggled with his shot at times last season and hit only 41.4 percent, but averaged 17.7 points this summer playing for the German National team.

Okulaja said there was no need for Cota and himself to take many shots last season with the star offensive players the Tar Heels had in the lineup.

"I have confidence in my shot, confidence in my game," Okulaja said. "I have all my life but if you have these kind of players on your team you're not going to get many shots. The ones you have, it's a mental thing.

"The shots are up for grabs now, you've got to go out there and earn every shot like [Jamison, Carter and Williams] did when they were here."

Guthridge was quick to point out that the North Carolina offensive system will remain similar, even if Cota or Okulaja are asked to take 15 shots a game.

"Any good offense has a lot of different options on it," Guthridge said. "It depends on what is open."  

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